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[kluhm-zee] /ˈklʌm zi/
adjective, clumsier, clumsiest.
awkward in movement or action; without skill or grace:
He is very clumsy and is always breaking things.
awkwardly done or made; unwieldy; ill-contrived:
He made a clumsy, embarrassed apology.
Origin of clumsy
1590-1600; clums benumbed with cold (now obsolete) + -y1; akin to Middle English clumsen to be stiff with cold, dialectal Swedish klumsig benumbed, awkward, klums numbskull, Old Norse klumsa lockjaw. See clam2
Related forms
clumsily, adverb
clumsiness, noun
1. ungraceful, ungainly, lumbering, lubberly. 2. unhandy, unskillful, maladroit, inexpert, bungling, bumbling, heavy-handed, inept.
2. adroit, skillful. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for clumsiest
Historical Examples
  • That you were incapable of speaking, of using your hands save in the clumsiest fashion?

    The Mind Master Arthur J. Burks
  • "That" was one of the clumsiest, most obvious parts of the general conspiracy to fool you.

    Rough-Hewn Dorothy Canfield
  • It was hard work, because he was by far the clumsiest man I have ever known.

    The Seven-Branched Candlestick

    Gilbert W. (Gilbert Wolf) Gabriel
  • The clumsiest nest of all is that which the Wood-Pigeon tries to build.

    The Curious Book of Birds Abbie Farwell Brown
  • They were the clumsiest of biological devices, and as they handed on life they spoiled it.

    The Judge

    Rebecca West
  • He was in charge of the clumsiest operation ever designed for an exact result.

    Space Tug Murray Leinster
  • After doing Page 423 many more brave deeds, he fell in battle with a giant, the biggest and clumsiest of his tribe.

    Theodoric the Goth Thomas Hodgkin
  • The Spanish cannon, also mounted on the clumsiest carriages, are placed in battery.

    Travels Through North America, v. 1-2 Berhard Saxe-Weimar Eisenach
  • Instances occur in which the tightest built and best manned ships are destroyed as suddenly as the clumsiest of ill-managed junks.

    The Ocean and its Wonders R.M. Ballantyne
  • The crime was not only a sordid and brutal one, it was also a clumsy one; in fact, about the clumsiest on record.

    A Veldt Official Bertram Mitford
British Dictionary definitions for clumsiest


adjective -sier, -siest
lacking in skill or physical coordination
awkwardly constructed or contrived
Derived Forms
clumsily, adverb
clumsiness, noun
Word Origin
C16 (in obsolete sense: benumbed with cold; hence, awkward): perhaps from C13 dialect clumse to benumb, probably from Scandinavian; compare Swedish dialect klumsig numb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for clumsiest



1590s, "acting as if benumbed," alteration of Middle English clumsid "numb with cold" (14c.), past participle of clumsen "to benumb, stiffen or paralyze with cold or fear," from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse klumsa "make speechless, palsy; prevent from speaking," intensive of kluma "to make motionless." For insertion of -s-, cf. flimsy.

Not in general use until 18c., with senses "manifesting awkwardness; so made as to be unwieldy." Related: Clumsily; clumsiness. Cf. Swedish dialectal klummsen "benumbed with cold," Norwegian klumsad (past participle) "speechless, palsied by a spasm or by fear or witchery;" German verklammen "grow stiff or numb with cold." Also cf. clumse (n.) "a stupid fellow."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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