Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary

ungainly

play
adjective un·gain·ly \-ˈgān-lē\

Simple Definition of ungainly

  • : moving in an awkward or clumsy way : not graceful

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of ungainly

  1. 1 a :  lacking in smoothness or dexterity :  clumsy <ungainly movements> b :  hard to handle :  unwieldy <an ungainly contraption>

  2. 2 :  having an awkward appearance <a large ungainly bird>

ungainliness

noun

Examples of ungainly in a sentence

  1. He was tall and ungainly.

  2. <getting the ungainly couch up the stairs was a real chore>



Did You Know?

What do you have to gain by knowing the root of "ungainly?" Plenty. The "gain" in "ungainly" is an obsolete English adjective meaning "direct," ultimately derived from the Old Norse preposition gegn, meaning "against." (The unrelated verb "gain" came to English by way of Anglo-French and is related to an Old High German word meaning "to hunt for food.") "Ungainly" can describe someone who’s clumsy (as in "a tall and ungainly man"), or something that causes you to feel clumsy when you try to handle it (as in "a car with ungainly controls"), or something that simply looks awkward and out of place (as in "an ungainly strip mall").

Origin and Etymology of ungainly

obsolete gain direct, from Middle English gayn, geyn, from Old English gēn, from Old Norse gegn, from gegn, preposition, against; akin to Old English gēan- against — more at again


First Known Use: 1611


UNGAINLY Defined for Kids

ungainly

play
adjective un·gain·ly \ˌən-ˈgān-lē\

Definition of ungainly for Students

ungainlier

ungainliest

  1. :  clumsy 1, awkward <an ungainly walk>





Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up ungainly? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

of, relating to, or near a shore

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

lavender-fields-in-france

Which of these is a synonym of caesura?

megillah rebellion torrent interruption
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ