The Meaning of Cheeky: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of cheeky? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word cheeky, including its definition, usage, word origin, and more!

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What does the word cheeky mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language and other sources such as Collins English Dictionary or American Heritage, the word cheeky is an informal adjective that means impudent, boldly rude, or disrespectful but in a playful or appealing way. One can add the suffixes er and est to the word cheeky to form the related words cheekier and cheekiest, the noun form of cheeky is cheek or cheekiness, and the adverb form of cheeky is cheekily.  Cheeky is two syllables – cheek-y, and the pronunciation of cheeky is ˈtʃiːkɪ. 

This word is commonly used by English people (Brits), New Zealanders, or people from Australia. If someone is cheeky, you can think of them as saying everything with a wink and a nudge or a sly look in a playful manner. Someone who is cheeky as a normal state of being might be called a cheeky monkey or cheeky nando. These people often speak in a cunning way and think others are morons. Plenty of smart humorists could be considered cheeky like John Lennon, Oscar Wilde, Noel Fielding, Morrissey, or Jarvis Cocker. This is an inoffensive word and is not used in a serious way. British people and comedians being cheeky is a British cultural phenomenon, which may have to do with the entrenched class system and higher classes in the UK. In America, this may not sound like natural sounding English but may still be used by American humorists.

Many different languages also contain words that mean cheeky. You may notice that some of these words look and sound similar to one another. These are known as cognates, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning, and look and sound similar across different languages. These are often formed when two words or languages share a common root or language of origin like Latin or Greek. This list of translations for the word cheeky is provided by Word Sense

  •  Spanish: burlón‎
  •  Russian: де́рзкий‎, наха́льный‎, на́глый‎
  •  Nynorsk: frekk‎
  •  Swedish: fräck‎
  •  French: impertinent‎, insolent‎, effronté‎
  •  Danish: fræk‎
  •  Czech: drzý‎ (masc.), nestydatý‎ (masc.)
  •  Italian: impertinente‎, sfacciato‎, sfrontato‎ (masc.), impudente‎ (masc.)
  •  Greek: θρασύς‎
  •  Scottish Gaelic: bragail‎
  •  Portuguese: metido‎
  •  German: frech‎
  •  Bulgarian: безочлив‎, нахален‎
  •  Finnish: röyhkeä‎, rääväsuinen‎, näsäviisas‎
  •  Esperanto: impertinenta‎
  •  West Frisian: bretaal‎
  •  Bokmål: frekk‎
  •  Catalan: descarat‎
  •  Maori: whakatoi‎

What is the origin of the word cheeky?

According to Etymonline, the word cheeky has been used since 1859, and since 1850 as the nickname of a misbehaving boy in a story. This comes from the noun cheek and related words include cheekily and cheekiness, used since 1841.

What are synonyms and antonyms of cheeky?

There are many different words that a person can use in place of the word cheeky. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same definition as another word or phrase. Synonyms are a useful English language tool because they can help you add variety to your writing and speech and avoid repeating yourself, while growing your vocabulary in the process. This list of synonyms for the word cheeky is provided by Thesaurus

  •  impertinent
  •  cool
  •  brassy
  •  forward
  •  barefaced
  •  ballsy
  •  shameless
  •  off-base
  •  immodest
  •  blatant
  •  nervy
  •  sassy
  •  disrespectful
  •  impudence
  •  saucy
  •  pert
  •  arrant
  •  boldfaced
  •  fresh
  •  presumptuous
  •  audacious
  •  smart
  •  bumptious
  •  brazen
  •  cocky
  •  cheeky
  •  smart-alecky
  •  cocksure
  •  contumelious
  •  brash
  •  rude
  •  insolent
  •  unblushing
  •  flip
  •  overbold
  •  impudent
  •  procacious
  •  unabashed
  •  wise
  •  bold
  •  insulting
  •  irreverent

There are also many different words that have the opposite meaning as the word cheeky. These opposite words  are known as antonyms, and are also very useful to know if you are trying to grow your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word cheeky is provided by Thesaurus as well. 

  • retiring
  • unassured
  • lowly
  • meek
  • unpresuming
  • self-conscious
  • unassuming
  • diffident
  • withdrawing
  • blushing
  • reserved
  • unpretending
  • shy
  • timid
  • quiet
  • sheepish
  • moderate
  • bashful
  • proper
  • humble
  • chaste
  • discreet
  • self-effacing
  • modest
  • unboastful
  • unassertive
  • nice
  • prudent
  • seemly
  • temperate
  • demure
  • silent
  • unpretentious
  • simple
  • humble
  • reticent
  • resigned
  • unobtrusive
  • coy

How can cheeky be used in a sentence?

The word cheeky can be used in many different ways in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to memorize their definitions. You can also try to make flashcards or quizzes for yourself that can test your knowledge of different definitions of English words. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! It might become one of your new favorite words to use. Below are a few different examples of cheeky to get you started.

The man was often cheeky to the opposite sex. He found it endearing and playful, but women often found it a turn-off. They did not want to be insulted after first meeting a potential romantic partner.

He decided to spice up the mundane activity by being cheeky to his coworkers. This earned him a one-way ticket to human resources to be written up for harassment.

She was quite a cheeky woman. She believes most people said the stupid stuff that come to their own minds, so she should be able to say the witty comments that came to hers.

After a beer or two, the Princeton University student became incredibly cheeky. This led to his removal and subsequent banning from several bars near campus. 

Overall, the word cheeky means impudent or disrespectful in a playful way. People might be cheeky in the presence of people, or they may be cheeky as a vague attempt at humor. Some people might view being cheeky as badass while others might find it on par with being offensive, so this risk is at stake when you decide to be cheeky as a way to provide humor or to prank people. Cheekiness is often seen in pop culture from British comedians.

Sources:

  1. cheeky: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. CHEEKY Synonyms: 14 Synonyms & Antonyms for CHEEKY | Thesaurus 
  3. MODEST Synonyms: 104 Synonyms & Antonyms for MODEST | Thesaurus 
  4. Cheeky | Definition of Cheeky | Merriam-Webster 
  5. cheeky | Origin and meaning of cheeky | Online Etymology Dictionary