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adjective, clum·si·er, clum·si·est.
  1. awkward in movement or action; without skill or grace: He is very clumsy and is always breaking things.
  2. 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

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Antonyms for clumsy Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for clumsy

Contemporary Examples of clumsy

Historical Examples of clumsy

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


    William J. Locke

  • I appear to have given you offence also with my clumsy tongue.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • As he was clumsy in finesse, she understood his idea, and her eyes flashed.

  • The clumsy framework of the receiver was reduced to a neat and portable size.

  • It was clumsy enough, but in my eyes a marvel of engineering art.

British Dictionary definitions for clumsy


adjective -sier or -siest
  1. lacking in skill or physical coordination
  2. 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 clumsy

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