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

Often, older adults require therapy after an untoward event brings them to the hospital — for instance, a stroke or a bad fall. Judith Graham, Washington Post, "Scrutinizing Medicare Coverage For Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy," 29 Mar. 2018 Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said there was nothing untoward or undemocratic in the process under way. Ann M. Simmons, WSJ, "Despite Demonstrations, Russian Elections Promise No Drama—By Design," 9 Sep. 2018 There was nothing untoward about my requests for transfers of Abraaj Group funds to me or my family, or for my personal investments or obligations. Simon Clark, WSJ, "Private-Equity Firm Abraaj Raised Billions Pledging to Do Good—Then It Fell Apart," 16 Oct. 2018 Kavanaugh claims to have noticed nothing untoward, including not remembering being on the recipient list for Kozinski’s email distribution list for dirty jokes. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Brett Kavanaugh’s habit of dissembling makes it hard to take his word over Ford’s," 24 Sep. 2018 Reaction to the tip: No untoward reaction to cash payment and middling gratuity. Fox, Town & Country, "A Table for Mr. Fox," 21 Nov. 2012 Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said there is nothing untoward about Ohio’s law. The Economist, "A divided Supreme Court strikes a blow for lower election turnouts," 14 June 2018 Even a few untoward remarks like this to students can have profound effects. Barbara Oakley, WSJ, "Why Do Women Shun STEM? It’s Complicated," 13 July 2018 But he has been suspended six times for untoward acts, and was fined earlier this season for diving. Kevin Allen, USA TODAY, "NHL never told Bruins' Brad Marchand to stop licking players," 27 Apr. 2018

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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Time Traveler for untoward

The first known use of untoward was in 1526

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on untoward

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with untoward

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for untoward

Spanish Central: Translation of untoward

Nglish: Translation of untoward for Spanish Speakers

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