A word to describe "John."

John clearly did not want to paint the house. He clanged the paint cans and noisily dragged the ladder around. The painting was quite sloppily done and the edges came out uneven.

For example when told to clean up or to do some other undesireable task the actor performs the job loudly. Possibly that person is loudly sighing or performing noticeably poorly within earshot of others so that all in the vicinity will learn that the actor does not want to do what is asked.

Maybe if told to put something down that person slams it down. Or if directed to drink a medicine they spill some intentionally. If the task is prolonged there will be muttered complaining or grumbling.

Not merely reluctance, but a word that means signalling reluctance.

To clarify: there is not an avoidance of confrontation implied here. In fact such behavior could quite easily lead to conflict.

  • Would it be something like "tantrum"? Seems like you're looking for an adjective specifically, which is why I didn't write an answer – HugoBDesigner Jan 25 '18 at 15:34
  • 4
    petulance maybe? dictionary.com/browse/petulance – Max Williams Jan 25 '18 at 15:38
  • I might say John is [ostentatiously] uncooperative - or maybe just stroppy. – FumbleFingers Jan 25 '18 at 17:52
  • @MaxWilliams make that an answer. I could accept it. Acting petulant is a great description. – geoO Jan 29 '18 at 13:58
  • @FumbleFingers stroppy is not bad. I had to look it up in the OED. But it's not common in US english. My iPhone even underlined the word in this comment as misspelled! – geoO Jan 29 '18 at 14:01

It sounds like John is being petulant

Adjective: Unreasonably angry and upset in a childish way.

His critics say he's just being silly and petulant.

He picked the pen up with a petulant gesture.


It would seem to me that John is being passive-aggressive

denoting or pertaining to a personality type or behavior marked by the expression of negative emotions in passive, indirect ways, as through manipulation or noncooperation:

From Wikipedia:

Passive–aggressive behavior is a type of behaviour characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation.

  • Like this, but avoidance of conflict isn't a criteria. Edited question to clarify. Thank you. – geoO Jan 29 '18 at 21:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.