Definition of awkward in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɔːkwəd/


1Causing difficulty; hard to do or deal with: some awkward questions the wheelbarrow can be awkward to manoeuvre
More example sentences
  • Had staff consulted with the minister and agreed to feign communication breakdown so as not to have to deal with my awkward questions?
  • He dealt with an awkward question on devolution with the surety and intelligence you would expect from a man who refused to be bullied into Vietnam.
  • O'Brien's hectic schedule may have been cast aside this weekend as he prepares to deal with many awkward questions, which may include some of the following.
difficult, tricky
British informal fiddly
cumbersome, unwieldy, unhandy
informal a devil
vulgar slang a bugger, a bastard
rare cumbrous, lumbersome
archaic unseasonable
1.1Deliberately unreasonable or uncooperative: you’re being damned awkward!
More example sentences
  • We did not want to be awkward and put any unreasonable obstructions in the way.
  • I was asked to enter some of my favourite music, so being deliberately awkward, I entered four of my less well known favourites, first among them being Lucy Woodward.
  • Everyone wants peace, no one wants war, and if you aren't prepared to march then you're either gung ho or deliberately awkward.
stubborn, obstinate;
Scottish  thrawn
informal cussed, pesky
British informal bloody-minded, bolshie
North American informal balky
2Causing or feeling uneasy embarrassment or inconvenience: he had put her in a very awkward position she felt awkward alone with him
More example sentences
  • I'd like to encourage some interactivity in this blog, so if anyone would like to email me with their awkward or embarrassing moments, I can post them here anonymously.
  • Even though she had never really cared to notice, the air was damp and the dripping coming from above made the silence very uneasy and awkward.
  • There were a few uneasy seconds of awkward silence, everyone looking at Christine with apprehension.
embarrassing, uncomfortable, unpleasant, delicate, ticklish, tricky, sensitive, problematic, problematical, troublesome, perplexing, thorny, vexatious;
British informal dodgy
North American informal gnarly
embarrassed, self-conscious, uncomfortable, ill at ease, uneasy, tense, nervous, edgy, unrelaxed, strained
rare unquiet
3Not smooth or graceful; ungainly: Luther’s awkward movements impeded his progress
More example sentences
  • That most people walk in an ungraceful, ungainly and awkward manner with a forward inclination of the body does not mean that it is the normal way of walking.
  • Now she faked her clumsy and awkward movements, often purposely stumbling over anything that came her way.
  • Kouki could see by his stiff stance and awkward movement that he didn't like him.
wooden, stiff;
informal clodhopping, ham-fisted, ham-handed, with two left feet, cack-handed
British informal all thumbs, all fingers and thumbs
archaic lubberly
3.1Uncomfortable or abnormal: make sure the baby isn’t sleeping in an awkward position
More example sentences
  • He stood as straight as he could, which was not very straight, since he spent nearly two hours in an uncomfortable and awkward position.
  • As I lay on my side, too choked with inward giggling to move into a less awkward and uncomfortable position, my mother appeared.
  • The members did this while crouching-on the floor in a very uncomfortable, awkward position.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'the wrong way round, upside down'): from dialect awk 'backwards, perverse, clumsy' (from Old Norse afugr 'turned the wrong way') + -ward.

  • There used to be a word awk, based on an Old Norse afugr, that meant ‘turned the wrong way round’. So awkward meant ‘in an awk direction’, ‘in the wrong direction, in reverse order, upside down’. It could be applied, for instance, to an animal that was on its back and was unable to get up. The meaning ‘clumsy or ungainly’ developed in the 16th century, followed by other meanings such as ‘embarrassing’, or ‘difficult to deal with’.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: awk|ward

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