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

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The system is outdated and unwieldy.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

The authenticity of beauty influencers has been coming under question for the past year or so, with a steady stream of scandals and an increasingly unwieldy number of influencer wannabes trying to make a career of it. Cheryl Wischhover, Vox, "The shady world of beauty influencers and the brands that pay them, explained," 31 Aug. 2018 Devices like this are effective, but often unwieldy and tend to be difficult to dose. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "8 of the Best Weed Vaporizers for the Total Beginner," 13 Dec. 2018 Plus, modifying the voting process would be too expensive, too unwieldy, and, in the end, not worth it. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Georgia says switching back to all-paper voting is logistically impossible," 12 Sep. 2018 In a era where phones are pushing the limits of what can fit in our pockets, the V40 strikes a nice balance between too small and unwieldy. Michael Simon, PCWorld, "Meet the LG V40 ThinQ: More screen, more battery, and more cameras," 3 Oct. 2018 The burritos are the perfect size — not too large and unwieldy but still big enough to not to leave you hungry — and there’s carne asada, French fries, cheese, guacamole, lettuce, and tomato rolled all together inside. 3. Fox News, "America's best burritos," 20 Nov. 2015 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

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

6 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

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).


marked by shyness and lack of polish

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