ungainly

adjective
un·​gain·​ly | \ ˌən-ˈgān-lē How to pronounce ungainly (audio) \

Definition of ungainly

1a : lacking in smoothness or dexterity : clumsy ungainly movements
b : hard to handle : unwieldy an ungainly contraption
2 : having an awkward appearance a large ungainly bird

Other Words from ungainly

ungainliness noun

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" that is ultimately derived from the Old Norse preposition gegn, meaning "against." (It is unrelated to the noun in "economic gains" or the verb in "gain an advantage"; those came to English by way of Anglo-French and are related to an Old High German word meaning "to hunt for food.") Ungainly can describe someone who is clumsy, as in "a tall, 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."

Examples of ungainly in a Sentence

He was tall and ungainly. getting the ungainly couch up the stairs was a real chore
Recent Examples on the Web The magazine’s declared charge was to bring ungainly life and youthful indiscretion to a culture bounded by cloying upstart institutions (McSweeney’s) and stuffy, older ones (James Wood writing at The New Republic). Phillip Maciak, The New Republic, 27 June 2022 Newell designed this ungainly Willy Wonka–esque apparatus over decades in a costly process of trial and error that faced—and ultimately overcame—several challenges, including protecting the mussels from turbulent seas and voracious eider ducks. Ellen Ruppel Shell, Scientific American, 1 May 2022 Not unlike Frankenstein’s monster, Brian’s ungainly creation comes alive during a thunderstorm. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 June 2022 Horse relies on ungainly cliff-hangers to pull the reader from chapter to chapter. Jordan Kisner, The Atlantic, 10 June 2022 But bending her deeply ingrained poise into a more ungainly, everyday shape — while continuing to kick ass — may be Yeoh’s most complicated assignment yet. New York Times, 15 Mar. 2022 In its assembly hall, the desk microphones cut the air at ungainly angles. James Verini, New York Times, 19 May 2022 The ungainly, 400,000 square-foot mass of interconnected structures seemed to have swallowed Pereira’s original design whole. Los Angeles Times, 26 Apr. 2022 In a contest of humans against all other animals in the efficiency of locomotion, humans on foot are about as ungainly, or gainly, as sheep. The New Yorker, 23 May 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of ungainly

1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for 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

Learn More About ungainly

Time Traveler for ungainly

Time Traveler

The first known use of ungainly was in 1611

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About ungainly

Dictionary Entries Near ungainly

ungainful

ungainly

ungainsayable

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for ungainly

Last Updated

1 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ungainly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ungainly. Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for ungainly

ungainly

adjective
un·​gain·​ly | \ ˌən-ˈgān-lē How to pronounce ungainly (audio) \
ungainlier; ungainliest

Kids Definition of ungainly

: clumsy sense 1, awkward an ungainly walk

More from Merriam-Webster on ungainly

Nglish: Translation of ungainly for Spanish Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!