adjective, un·gain·li·er, un·gain·li·est.

not graceful; awkward; unwieldy; clumsy: an ungainly child; an ungainly prose style.


in an awkward manner.

Origin of ungainly

1150–1200; (adv.) Middle English ungeinliche, equivalent to un- un-1 + later Middle English geyn straight, well-disposed, handy (< Old Norse gegn straight, direct; compare Old Norse ūgegn unreasonable) + -liche -ly; (adj.) un-1 + obsolete gainly proper, becoming, gracious, Middle English gaynlych (geyn as above + -lych -ly); cf. gainly, again
Related formsun·gain·li·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ungainly

Contemporary Examples of ungainly

Historical Examples of ungainly

  • The animal waddled toward the centre of the circle, short and squat and ungainly.

    White Fang

    Jack London

  • It was ridiculous and ungainly, lying there on his back with legs sprawling in the air.

    White Fang

    Jack London

  • Then, from the ungainly hoyden had been evolved this charming, delicate and lovely creature.

    Doctor Pascal

    Emile Zola

  • The ungainly little Scot did not leave the Wythburn district.

  • Thousands of ungainly boats, rafts and scows were waiting to be launched.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

British Dictionary definitions for ungainly


adjective -lier or -liest

lacking grace when moving
difficult to move or use; unwieldy
rare crude or coarse


rare clumsily
Derived Formsungainliness, noun

Word Origin for ungainly

C17: from un- 1 + obsolete or dialect gainly graceful
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 ungainly

1610s, originally "unfit, improper," from Middle English ungeinliche, from ungein (c.1400) "inconvenient" (from un- (1) "not" + Old Norse gegn "convenient") + -like.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper