un·​to·​ward | \ ˌən-ˈtō-ərd How to pronounce untoward (audio) , -ˈtȯ(-ə)rd; ˌən-tə-ˈwȯrd How to pronounce untoward (audio) \

Definition of untoward

1 : difficult to guide, manage, or work with : unruly, intractable
2a : marked by trouble or unhappiness : unlucky
b : not favorable : adverse, unpropitious untoward side effects

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Other Words from untoward

untowardly adverb
untowardness noun

Toward and Untoward

More than 700 years ago, English speakers began using the word toward for "forward-moving" youngsters, the kind who showed promise and were open to listening to their elders. After about 150 years, the use was broadened somewhat to mean simply "docile" or "obliging." The opposite of this toward is froward, meaning "perverse" or "ungovernable." Today, froward has fallen out of common use, and the cooperative sense of toward is downright obsolete, but the newcomer to this series—untoward—has kept its toehold. Untoward first showed up as a synonym of unruly in the 1500s, and it is still used, just as it was then, though it has since acquired other meanings as well.

Examples of untoward in a Sentence

There was nothing untoward about his appearance. tried to reason with the untoward child
Recent Examples on the Web Until bad bosses have to worry about being sent off the pitch, their untoward actions are unlikely to stop. The Economist, "Anger management Japan’s bullying bosses," 11 June 2020 Zelenskiy, who’s repeatedly rejected anything untoward in his ties to controversial tycoon Igor Kolomoisky, denies oligarchs have influence over his government. Volodymyr Verbyany, Bloomberg.com, "The Impeachment Saga Is Over, But Zelenskiy Can’t Rest in Ukraine," 5 May 2020 The Bach specialist, who uses period instruments and small forces, accepts no untoward emotion and rejects no genuine feeling. Los Angeles Times, "The deepest listening for Passover and Easter: Four music pieces of profound meaning," 8 Apr. 2020 Her aim was not so much to ensure that the maximum aid would reach the greatest number of people, but to guard against the prospect that too much federal support might reach insufficiently vulnerable people with untoward quickness. David Roth, The New Republic, "America’s Diseased Politics," 24 Mar. 2020 But for the most part, colleges fail to examine the untoward consequences of their political program particularly on economic growth. WSJ, "Imagine Questioning the Managerial Elite," 17 Jan. 2020 Modi had asked people to switch off lights—leading to a grid failure, nothing untoward happened. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "India joins Modi’s candlelight vigil with lamps, crackers—and a breached lockdown," 5 Apr. 2020 Anything untoward is marked for the attention of a handful of senior medics who patrol the area in green scrubs. Tariq Panja, New York Times, "Welcome to the Falcon Hospital. Please Take a Number.," 19 Dec. 2019 Nothing untoward is suggested in the movie, but still. Rumaan Alam, The New Republic, "Woody Allen’s Memoir Is Shrouded in Secrecy. Why?," 1 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'untoward.' 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 untoward

1526, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of untoward was in 1526

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Last Updated

25 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Untoward.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/untoward. Accessed 5 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for untoward


How to pronounce untoward (audio) How to pronounce untoward (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of untoward

: bad or unfavorable : not good
: not proper or appropriate


un·​to·​ward | \ ˌən-ˈtō-ərd How to pronounce untoward (audio) \

Kids Definition of untoward

: unexpected and unpleasant or improper Perhaps there was sickness in the temple, or some other untoward event …— Linda Sue Park, A Single Shard

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More from Merriam-Webster on untoward

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for untoward

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with untoward

Spanish Central: Translation of untoward

Nglish: Translation of untoward for Spanish Speakers

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