In American English, what would be preferred in this context - 'cranky' or 'grumpy'? Or would you say they're equally natural and could be used interchangeably here?

"Don't listen to her, she's just cranky/grumpy because her date canceled on her."

(Note : the woman being talked about is not old if that makes any difference)

  • 1
    they look equally suitable here to me... in the UK, cranky could also informally mean odd/strange/unusual Dec 30, 2020 at 13:56
  • 1
    I'm British, but my experience with US friends suggests they would prefer cranky here.
    – legatrix
    Dec 30, 2020 at 14:19
  • The meanings of cranky, grouchy and crotchety with the incomparable Mira Furlan youtube.com/watch?v=2w4nxVUhydk "I looked up the word "cranky." It said "grouchy." I looked up "grouchy," it said "crotchety." No wonder you have such an eccentric culture: none of your words have their own meaning!"
    – James K
    Feb 6, 2021 at 19:25

2 Answers 2


As you have observed, the dictionary definitions of 'cranky' and 'grumpy' are virtually identical. As a native British English speaker, my perception was that 'cranky' was more American, although we do sometimes use it in Britain. However, a look at Google books through the ngram viewer surprised me...

This ngram shows that, in British English books only, 'grumpy' is used much more than cranky. But while 'cranky' has been used more than 'grumpy' in US English works, usage of 'grumpy' seems to have overtaken it since 2012.

Based on this evidence, I would say that it really won't matter which you use. If you are writing for an American English audience, you should perhaps consider the age of your audience, or if you are writing prose, the age of your character. Given that this shift in use appears to have taken place in the last decade, an older person is perhaps more likely to use 'cranky'.


The expressions are nearly interchangeable. To me they suggest a slightly different tone. "Grumpy" is bad tempered rather than distracted or bothered or a little annoyed.

I think a grumpy boss is worse than a cranky boss.

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