Definition of sulky in US English:



  • 1Morose, bad-tempered, and resentful; refusing to be cooperative or cheerful.

    ‘disappointment was making her sulky’
    • ‘Often, the effect is like a bird buzzing a hippopotamus, the electronics here, there and everywhere, the guitar static and sulky.’
    • ‘And, most challengingly, how can you organise a successful family holiday with sulky teenagers?’
    • ‘Indeed, while Cole has a reputation for being at times a sulky figure in public, that probably stems from a distrust of the media and experience is changing him into a more laid-back character.’
    • ‘Although beautifully shot, the film is crippled by its sluggish pace, and it is difficult to muster much sympathy for the petulant, sulky Ishmael.’
    • ‘Teens are sulky, and moody and think WAY to highly of themselves for the most part.’
    • ‘No I have not turned a millionaire overnight, I did not get a double promotion, my life is no less messier than what it was a few days back and I am still the sulky, morose chap you met around the corner yesterday.’
    • ‘Understandably, therefore, Coulthard has been irritated by the speculation surrounding his future, but in his defence, he has neither resorted to lashing out at his critics or wasting energy in sulky routines.’
    • ‘Rounding out the cast are her sulky daughter, a prisoner called Garin and a court troubadour, all of whom are suspects when the count is stabbed through the heart.’
    • ‘Conor O'Neill is your typical underachiever, a good-looking, sulky drifter who's a ticket scalper and a gambler on the wrong side of the dice.’
    • ‘Say no more, except perhaps to point out that if you want your views taken seriously in Brussels, try to make sure you're smoking Gauloises and are accompanied by several hundred sulky colleagues in trucks.’
    • ‘After she declined a proposal to have dinner with him he returned to his more sullen and sulky ways.’
    • ‘Chloe nodded, but refused to be pulled out of her sulky state.’
    • ‘Many times one gets the impression he would rather live life as his schizoid alter ego, a sulky, moody 12-year-old trapped in a man's body.’
    • ‘Holmes plays sulky New Yorker April Burns, who, while her estranged family spend the day driving to visit her, frantically attempts to cook up a conciliatory Thanksgiving dinner for them all.’
    • ‘He is moody, brilliant, sulky, a cheat, and intermittently sublime.’
    • ‘She claimed to have been calling me since 2pm to ask for directions; this kind of clarified my feeling that she was not someone I want to share space with and we had a conversation that made me feel like the mother of a sulky teenager.’
    • ‘But while he does the long dark tunnel of sulky adolescence very well, he is a less-than-ardent lover and vocally colourless.’
    • ‘She was a sulky, angry child, who hated her home overseas.’
    • ‘Across the nation fights break out in living rooms as sulky teenagers beat their younger siblings senseless with remote controls in an effort to watch their favourite anti-heroes scream on BBC2.’
    • ‘After several days of being sulky, Kate flatly refused to talk to me on Wednesday.’
    sullen, surly, moping, pouting, moody, sour, piqued, petulant, disgruntled, ill-humoured, in a bad mood, having a fit of the sulks, out of humour, fed up, put out, out of sorts, mopey, mopish
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    1. 1.1 Expressing or suggesting gloom and bad temper.
      ‘she had a sultry, sulky mouth’
      • ‘Toadie, Connor and Lou are happy to see him but Stuart barely moves from his sulky position on the couch, where he's been all week.’
      • ‘Her heart-shaped face was now dabbed with a few tears, her mouth formed in a sulky pout.’
      • ‘Now, she's hoping her sulky blend of jazz will stir up interest in the U.S., too.’
      • ‘At the time, ironically, the review was dismissed as being by an obscure, sulky no-hoper rubbishing the likely winner.’
      • ‘The postbags under his eyes have lost a few bulging packages, and his naturally sulky pout seems, if not upturned into an actual smile, at least faintly curved.’
      • ‘With that I had to find a chef, face his sulky face as he finds a lemon, wait for him in the very hot kitchen as he cuts it, and walk a very very long distance to give it to her.’
      • ‘Her mouth was pinched, almost sulky, as if she'd sucked on a lemon.’
      • ‘His gloom was more than sulky posturing: when Smith sang about heroin addiction or alcoholism or depression, he was singing about things he had experienced first-hand.’
      • ‘Paul watches David and Lil's entry and gets the funniest sulky look on his face as he watches them together.’
      • ‘His mouth was sulky and his skin was so pale and thin that he looked almost transparent.’
      • ‘He is extraordinary-looking, with cold blue-green eyes, high cheekbones and full, sulky lips that are happiest when in full pout.’
      • ‘For a man who had preferred to limit himself merely to a sulky acknowledgement of Blair's position, it was a significant concession.’


  • A light two-wheeled horse-drawn vehicle for one person, used chiefly in harness racing.

    • ‘The sport progressed with the development of the light sulky in the early twentieth century and the introduction of regular night meetings at Harold Park, Sydney, in 1949.’
    • ‘It is the type of horse racing where the jockey sits on the sulky (the little cart in the back).’
    • ‘Visitors to John's farm also get to view his large collection of farm and agricultural implements and timber cutting gear and have a ride on a draught horse slide or sulky.’
    • ‘The potential for serious injury is high, says the report, and the racing of horses and sulkies near the Rising Sun, on Long Marton Road, at more than 30 mph, with several hundred spectators, gives the most grave concerns.’
    • ‘The subject of the racing of sulkies on the main road was discussed.’
    • ‘The prompters, which are not permitted to put their head in front of the horse in the time trial, were Thoroughbreds hitched to sulkies who galloped behind Moni Maker.’


Mid 18th century: perhaps from obsolete sulke ‘hard to dispose of’, of unknown origin.