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[uhn-geyn-lee] /ʌnˈgeɪn li/
adjective, ungainlier, ungainliest.
not graceful; awkward; unwieldy; clumsy:
an ungainly child; an ungainly prose style.
in an awkward manner.
Origin of ungainly
1150-1200; (adv.) Middle English ungeinliche, equivalent to un- un-1 + later Middle English geyn straight, well-disposed, handy (< Old Norse gegn straight, direct; compare Old Norse ūgegn unreasonable) + -liche -ly; (adj.) un-1 + obsolete gainly proper, becoming, gracious, Middle English gaynlych (geyn as above + -lych -ly); cf. gainly, again
Related forms
ungainliness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for ungainly
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She had not a good feature, not even a good point about her ungainly figure.

  • His big, ungainly hand has a truly wonderful power of soothing.

    Reels and Spindles Evelyn Raymond
  • The Platform was ungainly and it was huge, and it rested under a hollow metal half-globe that could have doubled for a sky.

    Space Platform Murray Leinster
  • In winter they wear gaiters, which give the ankles a most ungainly appearance.

    The Toilers of the Field Richard Jefferies
  • By twelve, local boatmen had towed out an ungainly object some thirty-two feet long.

    Creatures of the Abyss Murray Leinster
British Dictionary definitions for ungainly


adjective -lier, -liest
lacking grace when moving
difficult to move or use; unwieldy
(rare) crude or coarse
(rare) clumsily
Derived Forms
ungainliness, noun
Word Origin
C17: from un-1 + obsolete or dialect gainly graceful
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 ungainly

1610s, originally "unfit, improper," from Middle English ungeinliche, from ungein (c.1400) "inconvenient" (from un- (1) "not" + Old Norse gegn "convenient") + -like.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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