Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for March 13, 2021 is:

ungainly • un-GAYN-lee  • adjective

1 a : lacking in smoothness or dexterity : clumsy

b : hard to handle : unwieldy

2 : having an awkward appearance


“Hayes first set eyes on ‘Seneca,’ when he was an ungainly yearling. Now 12, he’s developed strength and coordination with good training, but he never outgrew that awkwardness.” — Amber Heintzberger, The Chronicle of the Horse, 5 Feb. 2021

“With an oddly elevated hood and body that seems too tall and narrow, this Cadillac is a bit ungainly, reminding me of a smaller vehicle dressed in a fat suit.” — Craig Cole, CNET Roadshow, 12 Jan. 2021

Did you know?

What do you have to gain by knowing the root of ungainly? Plenty. The gain in ungainly is an obsolete English adjective meaning “direct” that is ultimately derived from the Old Norse preposition gegn, meaning “against.” (It is unrelated to the noun in “economic gains” or the verb in “gain an advantage”; those came to English by way of Anglo-French and are related to an Old High German word meaning “to hunt for food.”) Ungainly can describe someone who is clumsy, as in “a tall, ungainly man”; or something that causes you to feel clumsy when you try to handle it, as in “a car with ungainly controls”; or something that simply looks awkward and out of place, as in “an ungainly strip mall.”

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