Thesaurus

awkward

adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms of awkward

2 showing or marked by a lack of skill and tact (as in dealing with a situation)
  • her awkward handling of the seating arrangements at the wedding reception resulted in many hurt feelings

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3 causing embarrassment
  • the awkward situation of having to listen as your host and hostess quarrel loudly in the next room

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4 causing difficulty, discomfort, or annoyance
  • our surprise guests came at a very awkward time

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5 difficult to use or operate especially because of size, weight, or design
  • that manual can opener is awkward to hold

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6 having or showing an inability to move in a graceful manner
  • an awkward person who is always tripping over herself

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7 lacking or showing a lack of nimbleness in using one's hands
  • an awkward catch of a fly ball

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See the Dictionary Definition 

Frequently Asked Questions About awkward

How does the adjective awkward contrast with its synonyms?

Some common synonyms of awkward are clumsy, gauche, inept, and maladroit. While all these words mean "not marked by ease (as of performance, movement, or social conduct)," awkward is widely applicable and may suggest unhandiness, inconvenience, lack of muscular control, embarrassment, or lack of tact.

periods of awkward silence

In what contexts can clumsy take the place of awkward?

While the synonyms clumsy and awkward are close in meaning, clumsy implies stiffness and heaviness and so may connote inflexibility, unwieldiness, or lack of ordinary skill.

a clumsy mechanic

When would gauche be a good substitute for awkward?

In some situations, the words gauche and awkward are roughly equivalent. However, gauche implies the effects of shyness, inexperience, or ill breeding.

felt gauche and unsophisticated at formal parties

When might inept be a better fit than awkward?

The words inept and awkward are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, inept often implies complete failure or inadequacy.

a hopelessly inept defense attorney

When could maladroit be used to replace awkward?

The meanings of maladroit and awkward largely overlap; however, maladroit suggests a tendency to create awkward situations.

a maladroit politician

Learn More About awkward

Time Traveler for awkward

Time Traveler

The first known use of awkward was in 1530

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Thesaurus Entries Near awkward

awing

awkward

awkwardly

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Cite this Entry

“Awkward.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/awkward. Accessed 1 Dec. 2021.

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More from Merriam-Webster on awkward

Nglish: Translation of awkward for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of awkward for Arabic Speakers

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