mal·​adroit | \ ˌma-lə-ˈdrȯit How to pronounce maladroit (audio) \

Definition of maladroit

: lacking adroitness : inept The governor has been criticized for his maladroit handling of the budget crisis.

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Other Words from maladroit

maladroitly adverb
maladroitness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for maladroit

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

Maladroit Comes From Old and Middle French

To understand the origin of "maladroit," you need to put together some Middle French and Old French building blocks. The first is the word mal, meaning "bad," and the second is the phrase a droit, meaning "properly." You can parse the phrase even further into the components a, meaning "to" or "at," and droit, meaning "right, direct, or straight." Middle French speakers put those pieces together as "maladroit" to describe the clumsy among them, and English speakers borrowed the word intact back in the 17th century. Its opposite, of course, is "adroit," which we adopted from the French in the same century.

Examples of maladroit in a Sentence

The governor has been criticized for his maladroit handling of the budget crisis. some maladroit steering on her part caused the bicycle to go crashing into the bushes
Recent Examples on the Web Factor in a politically maladroit Afghan government and endemic corruption, and once the Taliban began to roll up government surrenders in the provinces, their offensive took on a life of its own. The Editors, National Review, 15 Aug. 2021 The series is itself like a socially awkward teen-age nerd—charming but maladroit, heedless, a little exhausting. Sarah Larson, The New Yorker, 10 May 2020 His own party criticizes what many call his maladroit communication on an anxiety-inducing subject. Adam Nossiter, New York Times, 9 Dec. 2019 Playwrights Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon concoct for her a suitor who’s just as introverted and socially maladroit, the newly wealthy Arthur de Bourgh. Dominic P. Papatola, Twin Cities, 24 Nov. 2019 Equally maladroit was her debate decision to wrap herself in an unpopular policy that ended 20 years ago. George Will, National Review, 7 July 2019 Equally maladroit was her debate decision to wrap herself in an unpopular policy that ended 20 years ago. George Will, Twin Cities, 7 July 2019 Hicks bungled his hijacking of the Johnson, however, and proved maladroit at escaping, leaving a clear trail of evidence along his getaway route. Rinker Buck, WSJ, 28 June 2019 Trump may have been typically maladroit at actually executing on this policy view, but that’s a side issue. Michael Hiltzik,, 12 June 2018

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

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First Known Use of maladroit

1685, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for maladroit

French, from Middle French, from mal- + adroit

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Time Traveler for maladroit

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The first known use of maladroit was in 1685

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Cite this Entry

“Maladroit.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for maladroit



English Language Learners Definition of maladroit

: very awkward : not skillful or adroit


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