adjective, clum·si·er, clum·si·est.

awkward in movement or action; without skill or grace: He is very clumsy and is always breaking things.
awkwardly done or made; unwieldy; ill-contrived: He made a clumsy, embarrassed apology.

Origin of clumsy

1590–1600; clums benumbed with cold (now obsolete) + -y1; akin to Middle English clumsen to be stiff with cold, dialectal Swedish klumsig benumbed, awkward, klums numbskull, Old Norse klumsa lockjaw. See clam2
Related formsclum·si·ly, adverbclum·si·ness, noun

Synonyms for clumsy

Antonyms for clumsy Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for clumsiest

Historical Examples of clumsiest

  • That you were incapable of speaking, of using your hands save in the clumsiest fashion?

    The Mind Master

    Arthur J. Burks

  • "That" was one of the clumsiest, most obvious parts of the general conspiracy to fool you.


    Dorothy Canfield

  • It was hard work, because he was by far the clumsiest man I have ever known.

    The Seven-Branched Candlestick

    Gilbert W. (Gilbert Wolf) Gabriel

  • The clumsiest nest of all is that which the Wood-Pigeon tries to build.

    The Curious Book of Birds

    Abbie Farwell Brown

  • They were the clumsiest of biological devices, and as they handed on life they spoiled it.

    The Judge

    Rebecca West

British Dictionary definitions for clumsiest


adjective -sier or -siest

lacking in skill or physical coordination
awkwardly constructed or contrived
Derived Formsclumsily, adverbclumsiness, noun

Word Origin for clumsy

C16 (in obsolete sense: benumbed with cold; hence, awkward): perhaps from C13 dialect clumse to benumb, probably from Scandinavian; compare Swedish dialect klumsig numb
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 clumsiest



1590s, "acting as if benumbed," alteration of Middle English clumsid "numb with cold" (14c.), past participle of clumsen "to benumb, stiffen or paralyze with cold or fear," from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse klumsa "make speechless, palsy; prevent from speaking," intensive of kluma "to make motionless." For insertion of -s-, cf. flimsy.

Not in general use until 18c., with senses "manifesting awkwardness; so made as to be unwieldy." Related: Clumsily; clumsiness. Cf. Swedish dialectal klummsen "benumbed with cold," Norwegian klumsad (past participle) "speechless, palsied by a spasm or by fear or witchery;" German verklammen "grow stiff or numb with cold." Also cf. clumse (n.) "a stupid fellow."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper