ungainly

adjective un·gain·ly \ ˌən-ˈgān-lē \

Definition of ungainly

1 a :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

ungainliness

noun

ungainly was our Word of the Day on 08/19/2011. Hear the podcast!

Examples of ungainly in a Sentence

  1. He was tall and ungainly.

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

Recent Examples of ungainly from the Web

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.

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


UNGAINLY Defined for English Language Learners

ungainly

adjective

Definition of ungainly for English Language Learners

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


UNGAINLY Defined for Kids

ungainly

adjective un·gain·ly \ ˌən-ˈgān-lē \

Definition of ungainly for Students

ungainlier; ungainliest
:clumsy 1, awkward
  • an ungainly walk


Seen and Heard

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