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The system is outdated and unwieldy.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 But his proposals only spurred more bickering within the unwieldy coalition of four parties with racial and religious differences. Anisah Shukry, Bloomberg.com, "How a $7 Billion Dispute Helped Topple Mahathir’s ‘New Malaysia’," 13 May 2020 Even after the creation of a vaccine, distribution is unwieldy. Cameron Teague Robinson, The Courier-Journal, "'We won't be playing games with empty stands': U of L athletics uncertain amid COVID-19," 20 Apr. 2020 Its foes in Pakatan Harapan, an unwieldy coalition, won a shock victory in an election in May 2018. The Economist, "Malaysia’s new prime minister helps overturn an election result," 1 Mar. 2020 But the unwieldy coalition that brought Mr. Mahathir and Mr. Anwar together crumbled on Monday. Hannah Beech, New York Times, "Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Resigns," 24 Feb. 2020 But the unwieldy coalition that brought Mahathir and Anwar together crumbled Monday. Hannah Beech, BostonGlobe.com, "Malaysia’s prime minister resigns," 24 Feb. 2020 Anorak styles, which have only a partial zipper and pull on over your head, are warmer than full-zip coats, but can be unwieldy to put on. Blair Braverman, Outside Online, "How to Spot an Impostor Parka," 17 Feb. 2020 Maduro officials celebrated the gambit as a comeuppance for Guaidó, who has been struggling to maintain unity in the unwieldy opposition coalition. Fox News, "Venezuela's Guaidó blocked from congressional session as rivals declare substitute leader," 6 Jan. 2020 Well, part of my job is to take unwieldy, wonky datasets and polish them into something that helps readers make sense of the world. Ash Ngu, ProPublica, "How We Used FOIA to Track Ventilator and Hospital Bed Availability in Illinois," 24 Apr. 2020

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

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Unwieldy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unwieldy. Accessed 4 Jun. 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

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!