The Meaning of Awkward: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of awkward? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word awkward, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word awkward mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary and the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, the word awkward is an adjective that means embarrassing, inelegant, lacking dexterity, hard to handle, or clumsy. One can add the suffix ness to the end of awkward to form the noun awkwardness. Awkward is two syllables – awk-ward, and the pronunciation of awkward is ˈɔːkwəd.

Many things can be awkward, including an awkward dancer, awkward pause, awkward tool, awkward gesture, awkward use of the hands, awkward remark, awkward style, awkward bundle, awkward prose style, ungainly instrument, awkward knot, a load of bunglesome paraphernalia, an awkward rumor, clumsy wooden shows, awkward social skills, an awkward social interaction, a cumbersome writing style, a clumsy apology, an awkward instrument, a sticky question, a lack of social grace, an awkward frontiersman, an awkward method, uneasy seconds of awkward silence, an awkward man, awkward circumstances, and more. 

Many different languages also contain words that mean awkward. You may notice that many of these translations of awkward look and sound similar to one another. These are called cognates, which are words of different languages that look and sound alike while also retaining a similar meaning. These are often formed when two words or languages have the same root or language of origin. This list of translations of the word awkward is provided by Word Sense.

  •  German: peinlich‎, betreten‎, unangenehm‎, umständlich‎, patschert (Austrian), beklemmend‎
  •  Dutch: ongemakkelijk‎, genant‎
  •  Persian: ناجور‎ (nâjur)
  •  Irish: anásta‎
  •  Lithuanian: nejaukus‎ (masc.), nepatogus‎ (masc.)
  •  Maori: tahangoi‎
  •  Hungarian: kínos‎
  •  Turkish: kullanışsız‎
  •  Portuguese: constrangedor‎, desconcertante‎
  •  Icelandic: vandræðalegur‎, pínlegur‎
  •  Macedonian: незгоден‎ (nézgoden)
  •  Swedish: pinsam‎, genant‎
  •  Bulgarian: неловък‎, неудобен‎
  •  Japanese: ぎごちない‎ (gigochinai)
  •  Greek: δύσκολος‎
  •  French: embarrassant‎ (masc.)
  •  Italian: imbarazzato‎, poco opportuno‎, delicato‎, imbarazzante‎, inopportuno‎
  •  Esperanto: konsterna‎, senaplombiga‎
  •  Norwegian: pinlig‎
  •  Russian: нело́вкий‎, неудо́бный‎, затрудни́тельный‎
  •  Danish: akavet‎
  •  Polish: nieprzyjemny‎ (masc.)
  •  Finnish: vaikea‎, hankala‎, kiusallinen‎
  •  Czech: nepříjemný‎ (masc.)
  •  Spanish: embarazoso‎, delicado‎

What is the origin of the word awkward?

According to Merriam-Webster, the word awkward has been used since c16 as the Middle English awkeward, from awake and the Old Norse ǫfugr, Old Norse afugr and Old Norse öfugr meaning turned the wrong way or backward, from Old High German abuh and apo in Indo-European roots. 

How can the word awkward be used in a sentence?

There are many different ways in which the word awkward can be used in a sentence in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with their definitions and add them to your vocabulary. You can also try making flashcards or a quiz for yourself to test your knowledge of the definitions of different words. Try using this new word of the day in a sentence today! Below are a couple of different examples of using the word awkward in a sentence to help get your started.

Nigel’s posture in the kitchen sink dramas and London’s tone were incredibly awkward. An an actor, he should be able to put aside his crush on Londo, but the resulting pieces showed his unfitness in the role. He was replaced by Chris to play the angry character, who was comfortable in his own body and showed no apprehension in the scenes with London.

Christine felt awkward around the man with the handsome features in her class at Princeton University. At first look, his spiky black hair made Meyer Isaacson a strange sign, but at such close proximity she could see how beautiful he really way.

Mary was put in the awkward unenviable position of having to play the cello in clumsy wooden shoes in front of the whole school. She was so embarrassed that she almost called in sick the day of the performance.

What are synonyms and antonyms of awkward?

There are many different words and phrases that a person can choose to use in place of the word awkward. These are called synonyms, which are defined as words and phrases with the same definition as another word or phrase. Learning synonyms is a great way to expand your English vocabulary and avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms of awkward is from Power Thesaurus.

  •  unskillful
  •  wooden
  •  delicate
  •  lubberly
  •  difficult
  •  maladroit
  •  fumbling
  •  untimely
  •  stilted
  •  strange
  •  unenviable
  •  inapt
  •  thorny
  •  complex
  •  boorish
  •  tough
  •  self-conscious
  •  sensitive
  •  unpolished
  •  uncooperative
  •  inconvenient
  •  funny
  •  problematic
  •  sloppy
  •  unusual
  •  unwieldy
  •  lumbering
  •  uncomfortable
  •  ponderous
  •  klutzy
  •  tactless
  •  ill at ease
  •  amateurish
  •  clumsy
  •  tricky
  •  strained
  •  oafish
  •  coarse
  •  bulky
  •  blundering
  •  complicated
  •  ham-fisted
  •  constrained
  •  lumpish
  •  embarrassed
  •  uneasy
  •  halting
  •  unhandy
  •  inept
  •  inopportune
  •  incompetent
  •  challenging
  •  heavy
  •  stiff
  •  hulking
  •  bizarre
  •  gauche
  •  disobliging
  •  ill-chosen
  •  graceless
  •  clunky
  •  left-handed
  •  hard
  •  embarrassing
  •  ill-timed
  •  bungling
  •  rough
  •  unmanageable
  •  unpleasant
  •  perverse
  •  annoying
  •  ham-handed
  •  stranger
  •  sticky
  •  trying
  •  incommodious
  •  ungraceful
  •  ticklish
  •  weird
  •  precarious
  •  inappropriate
  •  bumbling
  •  ungainly
  •  touchy
  •  rude
  •  troublesome
  •  crude
  •  uncoordinated
  •  inelegant
  •  creepy
  •  heavy-handed
  •  unskilled
  •  gawky
  •  contrary
  •  uncouth
  •  unskilful
  •  cumbersome
  •  butterfingered
  •  all thumbs
  •  inexpert

There are also many different words that have the opposite meaning as the word awkward. These opposite words are called antonyms, which are another quick and easy way to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms is also provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  capable
  •  charming
  •  accomplished
  •  acceptable
  •  handsome
  •  skillful
  •  useful
  •  elegant
  •  easy
  •  graceful
  •  nimble
  •  pleasing
  •  ambidextrous
  •  competent
  •  smart
  •  practical
  •  able
  •  crackerjack
  •  convenient
  •  good
  •  serviceable
  •  great
  •  dexterous
  •  skilful
  •  supportive
  •  coordinated
  •  fluent
  •  beautiful
  •  clever
  •  sure-handed
  •  delightful
  •  felicitous
  •  handy
  •  consummate
  •  agile
  •  lithe
  •  expert
  •  controllable
  •  calm
  •  skilled
  •  adept
  •  adroit
  •  deft
  •  polished
  •  talented
  •  proficient
  •  agreeable
  •  comfortable
  •  desirable
  •  fine

Overall, the word awkward means an inelegance or having the quality of an embarrassing situation. 


  1. Awkward synonyms – 2 519 Words and Phrases for Awkward | Power Thesaurus 
  2. Awkward antonyms – 1 066 Opposites of Awkward | Power Thesaurus 
  3. awkward: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  4. Awkward definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary