• peckish •
Pronunciation: pek-ish • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. (UK) Slightly hungry. 2. Irritable, cranky, crotchety, out of sorts.
Notes: We all react peckishly when we are out of sorts (the adverb) and may be blamed for our peckishness (the noun). Of course, the last thing we are apt to do is peck someone (give them a brief kiss) when we are peckish—unless it is the cook and we are hungry, not irritated.
In Play: Be careful of your location when you use this Good Word. In Britain and elsewhere outside the US, it is likely to be taken in the first sense above: "After the huge lunch we had today, I'm not even peckish now." I wouldn't even guess where we might say, "Being peckish makes me peckish," so that both meanings are retrievable, except where the exceptional readers of alphaDictionary's Good Words congregate.
Word History: Today's Good Word sports two meanings derived from the two meanings of peck. The sense of "slightly hungry" comes from peck "to eat little, unenthusiastically", as to peck at one's food. The other comes from the sense of chickens defending themselves from irritation by pecking at a threat. Both senses are attenuated by the suffix -ish "somewhat", seen in reddish, leanish, darkish, or "like" as in foolish, sheepish, and boyish. (It might make Rodger Collins a bit peckish if we overlooked thanking him for suggesting today's Good Word—so thanks, Rodger.)