Origin of awkward

1300–50; Middle English, equivalent to awk(e), auk(e) ‘backhanded’, Old English *afoc (< Old Norse ǫfugr ‘turned the wrong way’; cognate with Old Saxon, Old High German abuh, Old English afu(h)lic ‘wrong’, off) + -ward -ward
Related formsawk·ward·ly, adverbawk·ward·ness, nounun·awk·ward, adjectiveun·awk·ward·ly, adverbun·awk·ward·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for awkward

Contemporary Examples of awkward

Historical Examples of awkward

  • "It's the way you're treating me," he cried, with a clumsy man's awkward attempt at gesture.


    William J. Locke

  • The situation was awkward, and awkwardly he got himself out of it.

  • Never in my life did I feel so awkward as then, and it was not strange that you ridiculed me so.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • In spite of the awkward sun helmet she carried her head imperiously.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

  • The sheep were to be washed and sheared, too, and the awkward, weak-kneed calves to be fed.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

British Dictionary definitions for awkward



lacking dexterity, proficiency, or skill; clumsy; ineptthe new recruits were awkward in their exercises
ungainly or inelegant in movements or posturedespite a great deal of practice she remained an awkward dancer
unwieldy; difficult to usean awkward implement
embarrassingan awkward moment
embarrassedhe felt awkward about leaving
difficult to deal with; requiring tactan awkward situation; an awkward customer
deliberately uncooperative or unhelpfulhe could help but he is being awkward
dangerous or difficultan awkward ascent of the ridge
obsolete perverse
Derived Formsawkwardly, adverbawkwardness, noun

Word Origin for awkward

C14 awk, from Old Norse öfugr turned the wrong way round + -ward
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

Word Origin and History for awkward

mid-14c., "in the wrong direction," from awk "back-handed" + adverbial suffix -weard (see -ward). Meaning "clumsy" first recorded 1520s. Related: Awkwardly. Other formations from awk, none of them surviving, were awky, awkly, awkness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper