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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from unwieldy

unwieldily \ ˌən-​ˈwēl-​də-​lē How to pronounce unwieldily (audio) \ adverb
unwieldiness \ ˌən-​ˈwēl-​dē-​nəs How to pronounce unwieldiness (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The system is outdated and unwieldy.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 In Iowa, the path on this particular policy has been unwieldy. NBC News, "Iowa still bars ex-felons from voting, frustrating Democratic caucusgoers," 2 Feb. 2020 While some of these are unwieldy as tools (like the kpinga) or are legally restricted in many places (like balisongs), these weapons still make interesting training companions in your martial arts systems. Tim Macwelch, Outdoor Life, "10 of the Best Survival Knives," 27 Jan. 2020 Sommelier Rick Arline and dining room manager Roderick Daniels are aces with the wine list, which has range without being unwieldy. Bill Addison, latimes.com, "Choose your own dining adventure at stunning new Auburn," 3 July 2019 Picking up a guitar as a young kid can be intimidating and frustrating: pressing down on the strings feels painful, the bulky body is unwieldy, and the whole instrument keeps slipping off your lap! Popular Science, "Kid-friendly guitars for the aspiring young strummer," 21 Jan. 2020 Also, whereas Gazelles and Eggs are limited to calibers like 7.62x51mm NATO and .50BMG, which (however unwieldy) can still be used by humans, the autocannons on attack helicopters use monster calibers like 20×102mm and 30x113mm. Peter Opaskar, Ars Technica, "Forget Top Gun: Maverick—let’s settle Blue Thunder vs. Airwolf once and for all," 10 Jan. 2020 Yet So Unaware of It (2016) Can't say the title didn't warn you: The 1975's second album was as sprawling, unwieldy, open-hearted and yes, occasoinally embarrassing as its name would imply. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "The 100 Greatest Albums of the 2010s: Staff Picks," 19 Nov. 2019 Undeterred, Musk said in a conference call yesterday that Tesla’s latest offering is a huge improvement on previous versions that proved expensive, unwieldy, and far too complex to install efficiently. Michael J. Coren, Quartz, "Is third time the charm for Tesla’s solar roof?," 26 Oct. 2019 His first challenge is to keep together his unwieldy alliance with a far-left party and nationalist parties from the Catalonia and Basque regions, which helped him unexpectedly replace Mr. Rajoy as prime minister. Raphael Minder, New York Times, "Spain’s New Leader Forms Government With Almost Two-Thirds Women," 6 June 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of unwieldy

1530, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about unwieldy

Time Traveler for unwieldy

Time Traveler

The first known use of unwieldy was in 1530

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about unwieldy

Statistics for unwieldy

Last Updated

17 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Unwieldy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unwieldy. Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for unwieldy


How to pronounce unwieldy (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on unwieldy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for unwieldy

Spanish Central: Translation of unwieldy

Nglish: Translation of unwieldy for Spanish Speakers

Comments on unwieldy

What made you want to look up unwieldy? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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