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

Keep scrolling for more

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 The odds of coming across a driver that is doing something untoward is seemingly quite high. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 1 June 2021 Arguably, this might be construed as being altogether gullible or susceptible to being scammed or falling into untoward traps. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 24 May 2021 The Dodgers are the only team in the history of any sport never to do anything untoward. Nick Canepa Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 May 2021 The governments concluded that capping prices will serve to boost restaurant profits without any other untoward outcome. Ike Brannon, Forbes, 16 Apr. 2021 A month later, with a smaller coaching staff led by defensive coordinator Matt Landolfi, there were no untoward play calls heard from the field. BostonGlobe.com, 15 Apr. 2021 There’s no particular reason to think something untoward will happen to the James Webb telescope. Marina Koren, The Atlantic, 12 Mar. 2021 There was a real sensitivity in the earliest days of the pandemic of not wanting to seem untoward about driving people to stores when the world was locking down. Veronika Sonsev, Forbes, 11 Mar. 2021 The strategy works most of the time until something untoward happens. Chris Farrell, Star Tribune, 6 Mar. 2021

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.

See More

First Known Use of untoward

1526, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About untoward

Time Traveler for untoward

Time Traveler

The first known use of untoward was in 1526

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About untoward

Statistics for untoward

Last Updated

14 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Untoward.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/untoward. Accessed 23 Jun. 2021.

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

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for untoward



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

More from Merriam-Webster on untoward

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for untoward

Nglish: Translation of untoward for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Return of Name that Color!

  • a light greenish blue color
  • Name that color:
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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