c. 1600, "insolence, immodesty, rudeness," from French pétulance (early 16c.), from Latin petulantia "sauciness, impudence," abstract noun from petulantem (see petulant). Meaning "peevishness" is recorded by 1784, from influence of pettish, etc. It displaced earlier petulancy (1550s in the first sense, 1712 in the second).
updated on May 11, 2020