Perhaps coined by Shakespeare. First use in print in 1592 in the form teachie in Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene iii, line 32. It is uncertain what inspired Shakespeare's or possible other prior use. According to some etymologists, from the obsolete noun tetch (habit). According to others, from a variant of Scots tache (blotch, fault). According to others, from Middle English tatch, tache, tecche, teche (blemish), influenced by touchy, from Old French tache, teche (Modern French tache), from Vulgar Latin *tacca, from Gothic 𐍄𐌰𐌹𐌺𐌽𐍃 (taikns, sign) (compare Old English tācn (sign, token), Modern English token), from Proto-Indo-European *deyḱ-.[1][2][3][4][5]


  • IPA(key): /ˈtɛtʃi/
    • (file)


tetchy (comparative tetchier, superlative tetchiest)

  1. Easily annoyed or irritated; peevish, testy or irascible.
    • 1592, William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliette, Act I, Scene iii, lines 30–32, (Nurse speaking, spelling modernized):
      When it did taste the wormwood on the nipple
      Of my dug and felt it bitter, pretty fool,
      To see it tetchy and fall out with the dug!
    • c. 1592, William Shakespeare, Richard III, Act IV, Scene 4,[1]
      A grievous burthen was thy birth to me;
      Tetchy and wayward was thy infancy;
    • 1605, Anthony Munday (translator), The Dumbe Diuine Speaker by Giacomo Affinati d’Acuto Romano, London: William Leake, Chapter 6, p. 58,[2]
      Our hart is so narrowly limited that (by euery little distaste) we are strangely altered, and being in this teasty tetchy way, presently we let flye foorth much vnseemelines.
    • 1792, Thomas Holcroft, The Road to Ruin, Dublin: J. Bragg, Act 5, p. 65,[3]
      I warrant, sir, he is, as you say, a very precise acrimonious person—A tetchy repugnant kind of old gentleman.
    • 1887, Bret Harte, Devil’s Ford in A Millionaire of Rough-and-Ready and Devil’s Ford, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Chapter 4, p. 238,[4]
      They’re good boys, as I said afore; but they’re quick and tetchy—George, being the youngest, nat’rally is the tetchiest.
    • 1920, H. G. Wells, Russia in the Shadows, London: Hodder & Stoughton, Chapter 6,[5]
      [] the commonplace Communist simply loses his temper if you venture to doubt whether everything is being done in precisely the best and most intelligent way under the new régime. He is like a tetchy housewife who wants you to recognise that everything is in perfect order in the middle of an eviction.

Related termsEdit



  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2021), “tetchy”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  2. ^ American Heritage Dictionary: "tetchy" etymology
  3. ^ T. F. HOAD. "tetchy." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. 1996. Encyclopedia.com. 17 Jan. 2010.
  4. ^ http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tetchy
  5. ^ http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/tetchy