un·​wieldy | \ˌən-ˈwēl-dē \

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 \ adverb
unwieldiness \ ˌən-​ˈwēl-​dē-​nəs \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for unwieldy


awkward, clumsy, clunky, cranky, cumbersome, cumbrous, ponderous, ungainly, unhandy



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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The system is outdated and unwieldy.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 arguing for the changes, Erdogan’s supporters had invoked Turkey’s history of tempestuous politics, current security threats and the need to streamline an unwieldy bureaucracy. Kareem Fahim, Washington Post, "As Erdogan prepares for new term, Turkey dismisses more than 18,000 civil servants," 8 July 2018 The obvious reason for cheer was Mr Flannery’s renewed promise to slim down the unwieldy conglomerate, including a vow to slash its net debt and pension obligations by $25bn. The Economist, "John Flannery gets down to business restructuring General Electric," 27 June 2018 Their effort goes by the unwieldy name of Sonoma & Napa Fires Pet Rescue and Reunification, and over the past eight months volunteers have trapped 350 felines and ferried them back to their owners. Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle, "The quest to save feline fire refugees: Rescuers stalk burned-out Santa Rosa zone," 30 May 2018 Advocates of the new law say that with the larger Cabinets, that system has become unwieldy. Isabel Kershner, BostonGlobe.com, "Israeli Parliament gives war power to 2 top leaders," 2 May 2018 Both were radio operators and both were on the same unwieldy flat-bottom boat, Landing Ship Tank Number 523 (LST-523), making the Channel crossing from Falmouth, England to Utah Beach 13 days after the June 6 D-Day landings. Fox News, "Twin brothers to be reunited 74 years after dying together on D-Day," 19 June 2018 Both were radio operators and both were on the same unwieldy flat-bottom boat, Landing Ship Tank Number 523 (LST-523), making the Channel crossing from Falmouth, England, to Utah Beach 13 days after the June 6 D-Day landings. Author: Mark D. Carlson, Virginia Mayo, Anchorage Daily News, "Twin brothers reunited 74 years after WWII death at Normandy," 19 June 2018 Figs are really cool plants with a slightly bad rep in South Florida in part because of overuse of Ficus benjamina hedges and their unwieldy roots and problems with whitefly and scale. Kenneth Setzer, miamiherald, "Houseplant advice for the millennial (or anyone) who doesn’t have a green thumb," 11 July 2018 And as often happens, these unwieldy explanations gained general acceptance. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?," 8 July 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.

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First Known Use of unwieldy

1530, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for unwieldy

Last Updated

13 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for unwieldy

The first known use of unwieldy was in 1530

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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 \

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on unwieldy

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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).


obstinately defiant of authority

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