un·​wieldy | \ ˌən-ˈwēl-dē How to pronounce unwieldy (audio) \

Definition of unwieldy

: not easily managed, handled, or used (as because of bulk, weight, complexity, or awkwardness) : cumbersome

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Other Words from unwieldy

unwieldily \ ˌən-​ˈwēl-​də-​lē How to pronounce unwieldy (audio) \ adverb
unwieldiness \ ˌən-​ˈwēl-​dē-​nəs How to pronounce unwieldy (audio) \ noun

The Difference Between Wieldy and Unwieldy

The verb to wield means "to handle or exert something effectively." A carpenter might wield a hammer with impressive dexterity, for example, or a talented orator might wield influence over an audience of listeners. Something that is "wieldy" is capable of being wielded easily, and while that adjective may not be particularly common, its antonym "unwieldy" finds ample use to describe anything that is awkward to handle, move, or manage. "Wield" and its relatives all derive via Middle English from Old English wieldan, meaning "to control."

Examples of unwieldy in a Sentence

The system is outdated and unwieldy. an unwieldy machine that requires two people to operate it
Recent Examples on the Web All of it would serve her in the biggest challenge of her career so far: taming the once-unwieldy novel out next week. Margaret Wappler, Los Angeles Times, "A bestselling L.A. novelist was struggling to depict a female adventurer. So she became one," 29 Apr. 2021 But supermarkets had little luck selling the unwieldy bricks, and many stores even lacked adequate freezer space to display them. Ute Eberle, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Surprising Success Story of Fish Sticks," 26 Apr. 2021 In an evening full of unwieldy, potentially cringe-worthy moments, there’s no sigh of relief bigger than realizing you’re in good hands, or, more importantly, hands that are having actual fun. Halle Kiefer, Vulture, "Lil Rel Howery Takes All This Awkward Live Oscar Coverage, Makes It Fun," 26 Apr. 2021 Homeless programs now involve an unwieldy array of government agencies, nonprofits, contractors and other entities that want to house, feed and provide other help for people — while often competing for the same piece of the funding pie. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: More resources — and bureaucracy — aimed at San Diego’s growing homeless problem," 23 Apr. 2021 Soon enough, the unwieldy force of her police work that night will be dissected and arranged into a fine time line fit for public consumption. Lauren Michele Jackson, The New Yorker, "Daunte Wright and the Grammar of Kim Potter’s Resignation," 16 Apr. 2021 The wine would be less expensive and have a lighter carbon footprint without the unwieldy heavy bottle, which almost requires two hands for pouring. Washington Post, "Toast la dolce vita at brunch by popping open this bottled Bellini cocktail," 9 Apr. 2021 The commission will have an unwieldy 36 members, who tilt markedly to the political left. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Biden Commissions the Supreme Court," 9 Apr. 2021 Its opacity and self-dealing, its unwieldy coterie of advisers and hangers-on, have all been mainstays of the #Resistance. Luke Thompson, National Review, "The Rise and Fall of the Lincoln Project," 9 Apr. 2021

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

1530, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for unwieldy

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The first known use of unwieldy was in 1530

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Last Updated

2 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Unwieldy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unwieldy. Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for unwieldy



English Language Learners Definition of unwieldy

: difficult to handle, control, or deal with because of being large, heavy, or complex


un·​wieldy | \ ˌən-ˈwēl-dē How to pronounce unwieldy (audio) \

Kids Definition of unwieldy

: hard to handle or control because of size or weight an unwieldy class The package is not heavy, but it is unwieldy.

Other Words from unwieldy

unwieldiness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on unwieldy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for unwieldy

Nglish: Translation of unwieldy for Spanish Speakers

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