Try Our Apps


Avoid these words. Seriously.


[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. 2018.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for ungainly
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The animal waddled toward the centre of the circle, short and squat and ungainly.

    White Fang Jack London
  • It was ridiculous and ungainly, lying there on his back with legs sprawling in the air.

    White Fang Jack London
  • Then, from the ungainly hoyden had been evolved this charming, delicate and lovely creature.

    Doctor Pascal Emile Zola
  • The ungainly little Scot did not leave the Wythburn district.

  • Thousands of ungainly boats, rafts and scows were waiting to be launched.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service
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
Cite This Source
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
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Nearby words for ungainly

Word Value for ungainly

Scrabble Words With Friends