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[uhn-geyn-lee] /ʌnˈgeɪn li/
adjective, ungainlier, ungainliest.
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 forms
ungainliness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for ungainly
  • The lanky actor with unruly hair and an ungainly stride had a boyish grin and an engaging manner.
  • Heavy and ungainly out of water, these reptiles are supremely well adapted swimmers.
  • Instead, they do an ungainly belly flop, and then struggle to get to their feet and jump again.
  • But he might as easily have been referring to the ungainly marvel that made it possible.
  • It doesn't flatten all the way out, though, and its ungainly size becomes even more apparent in the prone position.
  • Hogan's gleeful, gaudy tribute to one ungainly misfit and her determination.
  • The ungainly result was a huge iron dome on a long, low brick building.
  • As a runner, he was gaunt and ungainly and often successful.
  • The giant airlifter appeared out of nowhere, a hulking gray shape that looked too big and ungainly to fly.
  • The bridge resembles an ungainly doily with its spiky pinnacles and lacelike steel crisscrosses.
British Dictionary definitions for ungainly


adjective -lier, -liest
lacking grace when moving
difficult to move or use; unwieldy
(rare) crude or coarse
(rare) clumsily
Derived Forms
ungainliness, noun
Word Origin
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
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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
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