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

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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," 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").

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

Like a child learning to ride a bicycle, the bird then launched with ungainly effort, landing on a nearby shrub. Ernie Cowan, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Tiny birdhouse an unexpected home for wren family," 6 July 2019 But the process of memorializing fleeting moments of ungainly success—on the badminton court, the basketball court, the soccer field—had a curiously deflating effect. Ben Mcgrath, The New Yorker, "The Brooklyn Startup Helping High-School Athletes Go Viral," 30 May 2019 This ungainly design has apparently worked, however, since pelican fossils have been found dating back more than 30 million years. Ernie Cowan, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Pelican odd by design, graceful in flight," 13 June 2019 Unlike Apollo 8’s spectacular moon voyage, Apollo 9 never left low earth orbit, but its mission was essential: fly the ungainly-looking lunar module on a shakedown cruise. Ernie Mastroianni, Discover Magazine, "Travel With Apollo 9 As They Launch to Space 50 Years Ago," 1 Mar. 2019 The ungainly compromise that resulted, released this week, has enraged both sides of the debate, sparking ministerial resignations and giving new wing to the effort to oust Mrs. May from power. Max Colchester, WSJ, "Simple but Undefined Brexit Question Leads to Reckoning for U.K.’s May," 16 Nov. 2018 For a few years after the series merged in 2013, the ungainly Daytona Prototypes raced against Le Mans-spec LMP2 prototypes, a tricky balancing act for the people who had to write the rules. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "IMSA’s WeatherTech series is going great, but where does it go next?," 3 Sep. 2018 This goes back to the car’s aesthetics: That long, fairly ungainly front overhang allows it to more effectively leverage aero forces. Dan Neil, WSJ, "2019 McLaren Senna: A Pet Racecar for Billionaires," 31 May 2018 One of those scenarios seems delightful, the other indecent and ungainly. Nitsuh Abebe, New York Times, "New Sentences: From Jesse Ball’s ‘Census’," 20 June 2018

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.

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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

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Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for ungainly

The first known use of ungainly was in 1611

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More Definitions for ungainly

ungainly

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of ungainly

: moving in an awkward or clumsy way : not graceful

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on ungainly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ungainly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ungainly

Spanish Central: Translation of ungainly

Nglish: Translation of ungainly for Spanish Speakers

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