awkward

adjective

awk·​ward ˈȯ-kwərd How to pronounce awkward (audio)
1
a
: lacking dexterity or skill (as in the use of hands)
I'm awkward with a needle and thread.
b
: showing the result of a lack of expertness
an awkward attempt
awkward pictures
2
a
: lacking ease or grace (as of movement or expression)
awkward writing
b
: lacking the right proportions, size, or harmony of parts : ungainly
an awkward design
3
a
: lacking social grace and assurance
an awkward newcomer
b
: causing embarrassment
an awkward moment
4
: not easy to handle or deal with : requiring great skill, ingenuity, or care
an awkward load
an awkward diplomatic situation
5
obsolete : perverse
6
archaic : unfavorable, adverse
awkwardly adverb
awkwardness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for awkward

awkward, clumsy, maladroit, inept, gauche 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

clumsy implies stiffness and heaviness and so may connote inflexibility, unwieldiness, or lack of ordinary skill.

a clumsy mechanic

maladroit suggests a tendency to create awkward situations.

a maladroit politician

inept often implies complete failure or inadequacy.

a hopelessly inept defense attorney

gauche implies the effects of shyness, inexperience, or ill breeding.

felt gauche and unsophisticated at formal parties

Examples of awkward in a Sentence

I was electrified by what I learned in college. Still socially awkward, I had the bad habit of stopping strangers in the street to pour my heart out about the latest marvel I had learned. Jaron Lanier, Curious Minds, (2004) 2005
Greene must have known that such men would not spill the beans about his irregular life or ask awkward questions, though Burgess famously teased him for being … a poseur, and was banished. Paul Theroux, New York Times Book Review, 17 Oct. 2004
On the ground, vultures are hunched and awkward bundles of feathers, but in the air, where I watch them during much of the day, they are magnificent graceful soarers. Words From the Land, Stephen Trimble, editor, 1988
She is awkward at dancing. He had large feet and his walk was awkward and ungainly. The story contained some awkward writing. She is an awkward writer. The machine is very awkward to operate. I often find myself in awkward situations. He was put in the awkward position of having to write the memo. There was an awkward pause in the conversation. He feels awkward with strangers.
Recent Examples on the Web And here, just a couple of years later but 50 pounds thinner, awkward in someone else’s clothes. Photographs Todd Heisler, New York Times, 19 May 2024 Still, the twin legal threats put Alphabet in an awkward position. Laurent Belsie, The Christian Science Monitor, 18 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for awkward 

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

Word History

Etymology

Middle English awkeward in the wrong direction, from awke turned the wrong way, from Old Norse ǫfugr; akin to Old High German abuh turned the wrong way

First Known Use

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 5

Time Traveler
The first known use of awkward was in 1530

Dictionary Entries Near awkward

Cite this Entry

“Awkward.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/awkward. Accessed 24 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

awkward

adjective
awk·​ward ˈȯ-kwərd How to pronounce awkward (audio)
1
: lacking skill and flexibility (as in the use of the hands)
2
: not graceful : clumsy
3
: causing embarrassment
an awkward situation
4
: difficult to use or handle
an awkward tool
awkwardly adverb
awkwardness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on awkward

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