[ awk-werd ]
See synonyms for: awkwardawkwardlyawkwardness on

  1. lacking skill or dexterity.

  2. lacking grace or ease in movement: an awkward gesture;an awkward dancer.

  1. lacking social graces or manners: a simple, awkward frontiersman.

  2. not well planned or designed for easy or effective use: an awkward instrument;an awkward method.

  3. requiring caution; somewhat hazardous: an awkward turn in the road.

  4. hard to deal with; difficult; requiring skill, tact, or the like: an awkward situation;an awkward customer.

  5. embarrassing or inconvenient; caused by lack of social grace: an awkward moment.

  6. Obsolete. untoward; perverse.

Origin of awkward

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English, equivalent to awk(e), auk(e) “backhanded,” (unattested) Old English afoc (from Old Norse ǫfugr “turned the wrong way, backwards”; cognate with Old Saxon, Old High German abuh “wrong, bad,” Old English afu(h)lic “perverse”) + -ward suffix denoting direction; see origin at off, -ward

Other words for awkward

Opposites for awkward

Other words from awkward

  • awk·ward·ly, adverb
  • awk·ward·ness, noun
  • un·awk·ward, adjective
  • un·awk·ward·ly, adverb
  • un·awk·ward·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use awkward in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for awkward


/ (ˈɔːkwəd) /

  1. lacking dexterity, proficiency, or skill; clumsy; inept: the new recruits were awkward in their exercises

  2. ungainly or inelegant in movements or posture: despite a great deal of practice she remained an awkward dancer

  1. unwieldy; difficult to use: an awkward implement

  2. embarrassing: an awkward moment

  3. embarrassed: he felt awkward about leaving

  4. difficult to deal with; requiring tact: an awkward situation; an awkward customer

  5. deliberately uncooperative or unhelpful: he could help but he is being awkward

  6. dangerous or difficult: an awkward ascent of the ridge

  7. obsolete perverse

Origin of awkward

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

Derived forms of awkward

  • awkwardly, adverb
  • awkwardness, noun

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