See more synonyms for awkward on
  1. lacking skill or dexterity.
  2. lacking grace or ease in movement: an awkward gesture; an awkward dancer.
  3. lacking social graces or manners: a simple, awkward frontiersman.
  4. not well planned or designed for easy or effective use: an awkward instrument; an awkward method.
  5. requiring caution; somewhat hazardous: an awkward turn in the road.
  6. hard to deal with; difficult; requiring skill, tact, or the like: an awkward situation; an awkward customer.
  7. embarrassing or inconvenient; caused by lack of social grace: an awkward moment.
  8. Obsolete. untoward; perverse.

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. 2018

Examples from the Web for awkwardness

Contemporary Examples of awkwardness

Historical Examples of awkwardness

British Dictionary definitions for awkwardness


  1. lacking dexterity, proficiency, or skill; clumsy; ineptthe new recruits were awkward in their exercises
  2. ungainly or inelegant in movements or posturedespite a great deal of practice she remained an awkward dancer
  3. unwieldy; difficult to usean awkward implement
  4. embarrassingan awkward moment
  5. embarrassedhe felt awkward about leaving
  6. difficult to deal with; requiring tactan awkward situation; an awkward customer
  7. deliberately uncooperative or unhelpfulhe could help but he is being awkward
  8. dangerous or difficultan awkward ascent of the ridge
  9. 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 awkwardness

1704, "lack of grace," from awkward + -ness. Meaning "physical clumsiness" is attested from c.1770; that of "social embarrassment" is from 1788.



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