un·​wieldy ˌən-ˈwēl-dē How to pronounce unwieldy (audio)
: not easily managed, handled, or used (as because of bulk, weight, complexity, or awkwardness) : cumbersome
unwieldily adverb
unwieldiness noun

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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The system is outdated and unwieldy.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 Perhaps because this gig requires Fox to HALO-jump and waste opponents in a crop top, full glam and astonishingly long and unwieldy hair extensions. Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times, 21 Sep. 2023 Inflatable mattresses can feel bulky and unwieldy when deflated and packed, but at just over six pounds, this Hugbino portable mattress is lightweight and extremely portable. Mandy Harris, Travel + Leisure, 19 Sep. 2023 As TikTok’s retail ambitions grow, the catch-all shop is so far shaping up as an unwieldy and chaotic competitor to ecommerce giants like Amazon. WIRED, 19 Sep. 2023 The investigations merged into one, soon becoming so unwieldy that agents had to gather in Philadelphia for three days to coordinate the endgame. Seyward Darby, Longreads, 19 July 2023 Democratic leaders would have to hold roll call votes on every one to get around the hold, an unwieldy and time-consuming process in a chamber that already struggles to finish its basic business. Kevin Freking and Tara Copp, Anchorage Daily News, 7 Sep. 2023 The 57-year old native Brit managed to convince the generally risk-averse top brass at Volkswagen that the group’s already unwieldy stable of around a dozen different car, truck and motorcycle brands had room for yet one more. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 4 Sep. 2023 There's obviously huge problems for the athletes and the schools themselves in conferences that are this big and unwieldy. Taylor Wilson, USA TODAY, 2 Sep. 2023 And maybe that’s because the form’s limitations allow for an expansiveness whose effectiveness is both wildly useful for creating emotional payoff, and simultaneously deeply unwieldy to corral. Willing Davidson, The New Yorker, 29 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'unwieldy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1530, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of unwieldy was in 1530


Dictionary Entries Near unwieldy

Cite this Entry

“Unwieldy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unwieldy. Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


un·​wieldy ˌən-ˈwē(ə)l-dē How to pronounce unwieldy (audio)
: not easily handled or managed because of size or weight : awkward, cumbersome
an unwieldy tool

More from Merriam-Webster on unwieldy

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