adjective awk·ward \ ˈȯ-kwərd \
|Updated on: 3 Jul 2018

Definition of awkward

1 a : lacking dexterity or skill (as in the use of hands)
  • I'm awkward with a needle and thread.
b : showing the result of a lack of expertness
  • an awkward attempt
  • awkward pictures
2 a : lacking ease or grace (as of movement or expression)
  • awkward writing
b : lacking the right proportions, size, or harmony of parts : ungainly
  • an awkward design
3 a : lacking social grace and assurance
  • an awkward newcomer
b : causing embarrassment
  • an awkward moment
4 : not easy to handle or deal with : requiring great skill, ingenuity, or care
  • an awkward load
  • an awkward diplomatic situation
5 obsolete : perverse
6 archaic : unfavorable, adverse





Examples of awkward in a Sentence

  1. I was electrified by what I learned in college. Still socially awkward, I had the bad habit of stopping strangers in the street to pour my heart out about the latest marvel I had learned. —Jaron LanierCurious Minds(2004) 2005
  2. Greene must have known that such men would not spill the beans about his irregular life or ask awkward questions, though Burgess famously teased him for being … a poseur, and was banished. —Paul TherouxNew York Times Book Review17 Oct. 2004
  3. On the ground, vultures are hunched and awkward bundles of feathers, but in the air, where I watch them during much of the day, they are magnificent graceful soarers. Words From the Land, Stephen Trimble, editor1988
  4. She is awkward at dancing.

  5. He had large feet and his walk was awkward and ungainly.

  6. The story contained some awkward writing.

  7. She is an awkward writer.

  8. The machine is very awkward to operate.

  9. I often find myself in awkward situations.

  10. He was put in the awkward position of having to write the memo.

  11. There was an awkward pause in the conversation.

  12. He feels awkward with strangers.

Recent Examples of awkward from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'awkward.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of awkward

Middle English awkeward in the wrong direction, from awke turned the wrong way, from Old Norse ǫfugr; akin to Old High German abuh turned the wrong way

Synonym Discussion of awkward

awkward, clumsy, maladroit, inept, gauche mean not marked by ease (as of performance, movement, or social conduct). awkward is widely applicable and may suggest unhandiness, inconvenience, lack of muscular control, embarrassment, or lack of tact.
    • periods of awkward silence
clumsy implies stiffness and heaviness and so may connote inflexibility, unwieldiness, or lack of ordinary skill.
    • a clumsy mechanic
maladroit suggests a tendency to create awkward situations.
    • a maladroit politician
inept often implies complete failure or inadequacy.
    • a hopelessly inept defense attorney
gauche implies the effects of shyness, inexperience, or ill breeding.
    • felt gauche and unsophisticated at formal parties

AWKWARD Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of awkward for English Language Learners

  • : not graceful

  • : lacking skill

  • : difficult to use or handle

AWKWARD Defined for Kids


adjective awk·ward \ ˈȯ-kwərd \

Definition of awkward for Students

1 : not graceful : clumsy
  • an awkward dancer
2 : likely to embarrass
  • an awkward question
3 : difficult to use or handle
  • awkward tools




  • After a moment of awkwardness, I remembered who she was.

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