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The system is outdated and unwieldy.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

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 Members of the charitable organization, known by the unwieldy abbreviation SMOTJ, regard themselves as spiritual descendants of the original Templars. Kristina Krug, Smithsonian, "Meet the Americans Following in the Footsteps of the Knights Templar," 28 June 2018 Put simply, the company got bloated, leading to a disappointing financial performance and unwieldy operations. Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY, "5 ways General Electric is shrinking as an American corporate icon," 26 June 2018 In the aftermath of fight director Steve Rankin's impressive battle scene, Sullivan's unwieldy adaptation combining the play's two parts moves into the second half of its lengthy running time of three hours and twenty minutes. Jordan Riefe, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Henry IV': Theater Review," 9 June 2018 Since 1995, Airbus has used the comically bulbous aircraft to transport oversize, unwieldy cargo like fuselages and wings between its European production and assembly plants. Alex Davies, WIRED, "Airbus Rattles Its Whale of a Jet in the Name of Safety," 8 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.

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First Known Use of unwieldy

1530, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

1 Sep 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

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).


a magnificent or impressive array

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