un·​to·​ward ˌən-ˈtō-ərd How to pronounce untoward (audio)
ˌən-tə-ˈwȯrd How to pronounce untoward (audio)
: difficult to guide, manage, or work with : unruly, intractable
: marked by trouble or unhappiness : unlucky
: not favorable : adverse, unpropitious
untoward side effects
untowardly adverb
untowardness noun

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Toward and Untoward

For centuries, toward was used for "forward-moving" youngsters, the kind who showed promise and were open to listening to their elders. The adjective then came to mean "obliging." The opposite of this toward is froward, meaning "disobedient." Froward has fallen out of common use, and the cooperative sense of toward is obsolete, but untoward is still moving forward.

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 In addition, negating painful memories and trying to proceed as if everything is normal contorts one’s emotional life and results in untoward effects. George Makari, The Atlantic, 21 Mar. 2024 In the entertainment world, even mere accusations of untoward actions have caused the removal of K-pop idols from their groups, their existence never to be acknowledged again. Rebecca Sun, The Hollywood Reporter, 3 Jan. 2024 In reality, news outlets have strict firewalls between their editorial teams and business executives that insulate decision desks from any untoward influences. Eric Schultz, The Hollywood Reporter, 28 Aug. 2023 And the ratios in the new box have the right numbers—no untoward gaps to reduce your forward momentum. Patrick Bedard, Car and Driver, 26 Jan. 2023 Emmy Rose took a moment to think about how many of her grandmother’s songs accuse her husband, Doolittle, of untoward behavior with other women. Chris Willman, Variety, 2 Nov. 2022 These stories are often stitched together to hint at something untoward lurking beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Nathaniel Scharping, Discover Magazine, 1 Nov. 2022 Believing that any untoward behavior can be compartmentalized away is a mindset of the past. Marie-Caroline Chauvet, Fortune, 30 Aug. 2022 Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader who excoriated Mr. Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on Congress, waited 24 hours but finally spoke out on Tuesday to question whether something untoward had happened. Peter Baker, New York Times, 10 Aug. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'untoward.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1526, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of untoward was in 1526


Dictionary Entries Near untoward

Cite this Entry

“Untoward.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/untoward. Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


un·​to·​ward ˌən-ˈtō(-ə)rd How to pronounce untoward (audio) ˈən- How to pronounce untoward (audio)
: hard to manage : stubborn, willful
an untoward child
: causing trouble : unlucky
an untoward accident

More from Merriam-Webster on untoward

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