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1. Not graceful; ungainly.
a. Not dexterous; clumsy.
b. Clumsily or unskillfully performed: The opera was marred by an awkward aria.
a. Difficult to handle or manage: an awkward bundle to carry.
b. Difficult to effect; uncomfortable: an awkward pose.
a. Marked by or causing embarrassment or discomfort: an awkward remark; an awkward silence.
b. Requiring great tact, ingenuity, skill, and discretion: An awkward situation arose during the peace talks.

[Middle English awkeward, in the wrong way : awke, wrong (from Old Norse öfugr, backward; see apo- in Indo-European roots) + -ward, -ward.]

awk′ward·ly adv.
awk′ward·ness n.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.




  1. Awkward as a bull in a china shop —Anon

    This still popular simile endures with many substitutions for the bull such as “A blind dog,”“A gorilla,”“A monkey.” Often, instead of a substitute comparison, a different context can lift a simile like this beyond the cliche; for example, “Like wild bulls in a china shop … are my awkward hands of love” from poet Delmore Schwartz’s journals and notes.

  2. Awkward as learning newly learned —Adrienne Rich
  3. Awkward in her movements, as if she had been in solitary for years —Ross Macdonald
  4. Awkward … like a guest at a party to whose members he carried bad news he had no right to know, no right to tell —Hortense Calisher
  5. Awkward like a leaden ballet dancer lifting a fat partner —Ed McBain
  6. Awoke as stiff as if I’d been spray-starched —Jonathan Kellerman
  7. Blunder and fumble like a moth … a rabbit caught in the glare of a torch —William Faulkner
  8. Bumbled up to him like a mole —Wilfrid Sheed
  9. Clumsy as two kids on their first date —Anon
  10. Clumsy … like a leaky old engine with the driving belt slipping and steam escaping from every joint —Christopher Isherwood
  11. Feel awkward like a boy on a date with an older girl —Bobbie Ann Mason
  12. Graceless as a pelican on the ground —George Garrett
  13. Had about as much grace as a hippopotamus in a bubble bath —Harry Prince
  14. Has the grace of an arthritic elephant on roller skates —Corey Sandler
  15. Moved thickly, like a clumsy, good-tempered horse —William Faulkner
  16. Moving stiffly like a man in a body cast —Martin Cruz Smith
  17. She ran on like a clumsy goat, trampling and trespassing on land that was preserved —Daphne du Maurier
  18. Stiff as a gaffer —Richard Wilbur
  19. Stiff as a line in Euclid —Saul Bellow
  20. Stiff as a poker grew —Wallace Irwin
  21. Stumbling about like a drunken bear —James Crumley
  22. Uncoordinated as a rag doll —Dorothea Straus
  23. Unwieldy as a pregnant elephant —Anon
Similes Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1988 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.



all thumbs Awkward, inept; clumsy, butterfingered. A forerunner of the current expression appeared in John Hey wood’s Proverbs in 1546:

When he should get ought, each finger is a thumb.

The phrase as we know it was in use by 1870:

Your uneducated man is all thumbs, as the phrase runs; and what education does for him is to supply him with clever fingers. (The Echo, November 16, 1870)

flub the dub See RUINATION.

have two left feet To be unusually clumsy; uncoordinated, maladroit. The expression does not constitute an image of deformity, but an emphasis on the negative concepts of left as ‘gauche, awkward, clumsy.’

Mr. Dawson … gave it as his opinion that one of the lady dancers had two left feet. (P. G. Wodehouse, Psmith Journalist, 1915)

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.Awkwardness - unskillfulness resulting from a lack of trainingawkwardness - unskillfulness resulting from a lack of training
unskillfulness - a lack of cognitive skill
rustiness - ineptitude or awkwardness as a consequence of age or lack of practice; "his rustiness showed when he was asked to speed up"
2.Awkwardness - the quality of an embarrassing situationawkwardness - the quality of an embarrassing situation; "he sensed the awkwardness of his proposal"
disadvantage - the quality of having an inferior or less favorable position
3.Awkwardness - the carriage of someone whose movements and posture are ungainly or inelegantawkwardness - the carriage of someone whose movements and posture are ungainly or inelegant
posture, carriage, bearing - characteristic way of bearing one's body; "stood with good posture"
gracelessness, ungracefulness - an unpleasant lack of grace in carriage or form or movement or expression
gawkiness, ungainliness - the carriage of someone whose movements and posture are extremely ungainly and inelegant
stiffness - the property of moving with pain or difficulty; "he awoke with a painful stiffness in his neck"
gracefulness - beautiful carriage
4.Awkwardness - the inelegance of someone stiff and unrelaxed (as by embarrassment)awkwardness - the inelegance of someone stiff and unrelaxed (as by embarrassment)
inelegance - the quality of lacking refinement and good taste
woodenness - the quality of being wooden and awkward; "he criticized the woodenness of the acting"; "there was a certain woodenness in his replies"
gaucherie, rusticity - the quality of being rustic or gauche
5.Awkwardness - trouble in carrying or managing caused by bulk or shapeawkwardness - trouble in carrying or managing caused by bulk or shape; "the movers cursed the unwieldiness of the big piano"
troublesomeness, worriment, inconvenience - a difficulty that causes anxiety
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


2. embarrassment, difficulty, discomfort, delicacy, unpleasantness, inconvenience, stickiness (informal), painfulness, ticklishness, uphill (S. African), thorniness, inopportuneness, perplexingness, untimeliness It was a moment of some awkwardness in our relationship.
Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002
إرباك، إحراج
neobratnosttrapná situace


[ˈɔːkwədnɪs] N
1. (= difficult nature) [of problem] → lo delicado; [of situation] → lo delicado, lo violento; [of person] → falta f de colaboración; [of shape, design] → lo incómodo, lo poco práctico
2. (= embarrassment, discomfort) → embarazo m
3. (= clumsiness) → torpeza f
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[ˈɔːkwərdnɪs] n (= embarrassment) → gêne f
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(= difficulty)Schwierigkeit f; (of time, angle, shape)Ungünstigkeit f
(= discomfort)Peinlichkeit f
(= embarrassment)Verlegenheit f; (= shamefacedness)Betretenheit f
(= clumsiness)Unbeholfenheit f
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


[ˈɔːkwədnɪs] n (of situation, problem) → difficoltà, delicatezza; (of arrangement) → scomodità; (of silence) → imbarazzo; (of movement, behaviour) → goffaggine f
the awkwardness of his prose style → lo stile contorto della sua prosa
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995


(ˈoːkwəd) adjective
1. not graceful or elegant. an awkward movement.
2. difficult or causing difficulty, embarrassment etc. an awkward question; an awkward silence; His cut is in an awkward place.
ˈawkwardly adverb
ˈawkwardness noun
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.
References in classic literature ?
In addition to what has been already said of Catherine Morland's personal and mental endowments, when about to be launched into all the difficulties and dangers of a six weeks' residence in Bath, it may be stated, for the reader's more certain information, lest the following pages should otherwise fail of giving any idea of what her character is meant to be, that her heart was affectionate; her disposition cheerful and open, without conceit or affectation of any kind -- her manners just removed from the awkwardness and shyness of a girl; her person pleasing, and, when in good looks, pretty -- and her mind about as ignorant and uninformed as the female mind at seventeen usually is.
In her memories of Vronsky there always entered a certain element of awkwardness, though he was in the highest degree well-bred and at ease, as though there were some false note--not in Vronsky, he was very simple and nice, but in herself, while with Levin she felt perfectly simple and clear.
Anyway, one can observe a certain awkwardness about him when he has attained such objects.
But this awkwardness only lasted a minute, because the strange captain, observing at a glance how affairs stood, cried out, I see, I see!
It would not have been the awkwardness of a moment, it would have been rather a pleasure, previous to the suspicions of this very day; she could have talked to him of Harriet, and the threequarters of a mile would have seemed but one.
"As to your foolishness and awkwardness, my dear Fanny, believe me, you never have a shadow of either, but in using the words so improperly.
You don't in the least know how to do it; but I'll overlook your awkwardness in consideration of your feelings."
Don't you think we OUGHT to write?"--there was nothing like that inquiry, we found by experience, for carrying off an awkwardness. "He" of course was their uncle in Harley Street; and we lived in much profusion of theory that he might at any moment arrive to mingle in our circle.
I never wish to offend, but I am so foolishly shy, that I often seem negligent, when I am only kept back by my natural awkwardness. I have frequently thought that I must have been intended by nature to be fond of low company, I am so little at my ease among strangers of gentility!"
The foolish old dame gave a start and a cry, and then demanded of me whither I had been coming, and what it was I wanted; after which she rated me soundly for my awkwardness. Always have I found something of the kind befall me when engaged on errands of this nature.
At one time she had almost resolved on applying to him, but the idea was checked by the awkwardness of the application, and at length wholly banished by the conviction that Mr.
With these supports, she hoped that the acquaintance between herself and the Crofts, which, with Lady Russell, still resident in Kellynch, and Mary fixed only three miles off, must be anticipated, need not involve any particular awkwardness.