sometimes gaucher; sometimes gauchest
: lacking social experience or grace
also : not tactful : crude
it would be gauche to mention the subject
: crudely made or done
a gauche turn of phrase
: not planar
gauche conformation of molecules
gauchely adverb
gaucheness noun

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Gauche and Being Left-Handed

Although it doesn’t mean anything sinister, gauche is one of several words (including sinister) with ties to old suspicions and negative associations relating to the left side and use of the left hand. In French, gauche literally means “left,” and it has the extended meanings “awkward” and “clumsy.” These meanings may have come about because left-handed people could appear awkward trying to manage in a mostly right-handed world, or perhaps because right-handed people appear awkward when trying to use their left hand. Regardless, awkwardness is a likely culprit. Fittingly, awkward itself comes from the Middle English awke, meaning “turned the wrong way” or “left-handed.” On the other hand, adroit and dexterity have their roots in words meaning “right” or “on the right side.”

Choose the Right Synonym for gauche

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

Examples of gauche in a Sentence

Among élite scientists, it was usually considered gauche to be obsessed with anything so tangible or immediate: brilliant discoveries were supposed to percolate. Michael Specter, New Yorker, 3 Dec. 2007
… furnished it with, among other things, an embarrassingly gauche, oversized Roman Catholic basilica rumored to be larger even than St. Peter's in Vatican City … Marc A. Schindler, Verbatim, Spring 1992
We were suburban housewives and mothers. As poets we took a respectful backseat to the male poets. We did not talk about our husbands and children in public; that would have been gauche indeed. Maxine Kumin, In Deep, 1987
So lofty was her depreciatory manner that I felt myself gauche and was put on the defensive. Joseph Heller, God Knows, 1984
Would it be gauche of me to ask her how old she is? his loud talking at the opera marked him as gauche and uncultured
Recent Examples on the Web The reason is very simple—the Noto palazzo was very gauche and fit for the party later in the season, to be thrown by Hollander’s character. Charlie Hobbs, Condé Nast Traveler, 9 Dec. 2022 That would be too gauche, too legislative for the court. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 19 May 2022 Dear Looking: Greeting your host with your Gladware out and at the ready is definitely gauche. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, 28 Oct. 2021 Maybe French tips aren't gauche for the Met Gala, after all. Anna Moeslein, Glamour, 8 June 2018 Another newspaper innovation introduced by Nicholson was a society column, which was seen by some in the city as gauche and bordering on scandalous., 24 Jan. 2018 However, purists view purchasing king cakes before Jan. 6 as a demonstration of gauche impatience., 5 Jan. 2018 Today, mass production and an abundance of cheap knockoffs have rendered conspicuous consumption unremarkable at best and gauche at worst. J.c. Pan, New Republic, 1 Aug. 2017 Old money, historically, has been stereotyped as having a Brahmin disdain for such a gauche topic. Paul Sullivan, New York Times, 19 May 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'gauche.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French, literally, left

First Known Use

1751, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of gauche was in 1751


Dictionary Entries Near gauche

Cite this Entry

“Gauche.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


: lacking social experience or grace
gaucheness noun

French, literally, "left, on the left hand"; probably so called because for most people the left hand is more awkward to use than the right

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