not steady or firm; unstable; shaky: an unsteady hand.
fluctuating or wavering: an unsteady flame; unsteady prices.
irregular or uneven: an unsteady development.

verb (used with object), un·stead·ied, un·stead·y·ing.

to make unsteady.

Origin of unsteady

First recorded in 1525–35; un-1 + steady
Related formsun·stead·i·ly, adverbun·stead·i·ness, noun

Synonyms for unsteady

1. See unsettled. 2. vacillating, flickering.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for unsteady

Contemporary Examples of unsteady

Historical Examples of unsteady

  • As his hand neared the latch I could see in the dim light that his movements were unsteady.

    The Underdog

    F. Hopkinson Smith

  • The strain upon him had been so great that his nerves and brain were unsteady.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

  • Blandois' hand was unsteady; but he laughed, and that would naturally shake it.

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • They were done with some very poor instrument, and hurriedly, with an unsteady hand.

    A Tale of Two Cities

    Charles Dickens

  • He looked down at his sister with glittering and unsteady eyes.

    Roden's Corner

    Henry Seton Merriman

British Dictionary definitions for unsteady



not securely fixedan unsteady foothold
(of behaviour, etc) lacking constancy; erratic
without regularityan unsteady rhythm
(of a manner of walking, etc) precarious, staggering, as from intoxication

verb -steadies, -steadying or -steadied

(tr) to make unsteady
Derived Formsunsteadily, adverbunsteadiness, 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

Word Origin and History for unsteady

1590s, from un- (1) "not" + steady (adj.). Cf. Old Frisian unstadich, German unstätig, Middle Dutch onstadich.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper