Definition of clumsy in US English:



  • 1Awkward in movement or in handling things.

    ‘the cold made his fingers clumsy’
    ‘a terribly clumsy fellow’
    • ‘I was astonished, when reading his memoirs, to learn that such a polished and poised fellow had never lost the sense that he was awkward and clumsy.’
    • ‘I'm so completely clumsy and incapable of handling a sword or a gun that I just gave up on it.’
    • ‘He is an awkward, clumsy boy in the community.’
    • ‘When the shot broke, I tried to run the bolt quickly and prepare for a follow up, as we had practiced, but my hands were suddenly awkward and clumsy.’
    • ‘A few minutes later I heard the clumsy movements of my mother rushing out of the room.’
    • ‘He would smile mysteriously at her, or look at her with a new kind of interest that made her feel awkward and clumsy around him.’
    • ‘As the clumsy little boy approached he tripped, and fell into his waiting arms.’
    • ‘But left-handers are renowned for being awkward and clumsy and in some societies they are still looked upon with suspicion.’
    • ‘Hand movements may become clumsy and the person may find it difficult to even to fasten buttons.’
    • ‘The girls were running and giggling at the same time, making them clumsy in their movements and me even angrier.’
    • ‘I was in a strange land, where small, clumsy, country boys were not appreciated.’
    • ‘As it rocks from side to side, a walking penguin may look clumsy, but its movements are actually quite efficient.’
    • ‘The bear was big and frightening, but his clumsy movements made people laugh.’
    • ‘Their movements are clumsy, but they can open doors and remove objects from closets and drawers.’
    • ‘Fumbling, my fingers clumsy and slow, I fought with the buttons on his soaking-wet shirt.’
    • ‘Its movements are clumsy and relatively uncoordinated.’
    • ‘Last year I was daft enough to get the guy to help me with the counter top and the clumsy fellow managed to gouge a great chunk out of the kitchen wall.’
    • ‘I was never a good thief; I was clumsy, awkward, and too loud when I tried to take things.’
    • ‘The child may look dazed, and his or her movements may be clumsy.’
    • ‘On the other hand, I always was a clumsy, accident-prone little boy.’
    • ‘Frantically, she scrambled back through the ventilation shaft, haste making her movements clumsy and loud.’
    awkward, uncoordinated, ungainly, graceless, ungraceful, inelegant, gawky, gauche, gangling, cloddish, blundering, lumbering
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    1. 1.1 Done awkwardly or without skill or elegance.
      ‘a clumsy attempt to park’
      ‘a clumsy remake of an old movie’
      • ‘The performances are flat and wooden; the writing is clumsy and unlikely to keep any child interested for more than a few minutes.’
      • ‘This clumsy pastiche may please its creator, but the difficulty with any ‘me-film’ is that you're only guaranteed an audience of one.’
      • ‘The hints too had been so heavy and so clumsy that journalists well versed in the field of arms control were beginning to guess who it could be.’
      • ‘The shooting appears to be a clumsy attempt to provoke violence that would justify their continued presence in the country.’
      • ‘This was a clumsy amateurish attempt by two students.’
      • ‘For instance, when we learn to drive a car, our initial attempts are clumsy and full of errors.’
      • ‘It comes off as a clumsy storytelling device and suggests a more general weakness with the criminology aspects of the film.’
      • ‘His downfall came only when he made a clumsy and inept attempt to forge her will, to claim her legacy for himself.’
      • ‘The extraordinarily clumsy and transparent attempt to bury the issue failed, however, resulting in a further inquiry and the present trials.’
      • ‘I made this clumsy, half-hearted suicide attempt about a year ago.’
      • ‘But these clumsy attempts to prevent its publication only promoted the swift growth of interest in the book.’
      • ‘‘Being a hippy’ was just a clumsy attempt to give expression to those moments of spirituality he had experienced since childhood.’
      • ‘The characters appear out of nowhere and act as little more than clumsy devices to move the plot along and reveal the truth behind mysteries set up elsewhere.’
      • ‘With this uncharacteristically clumsy device the author seems to be trying to relate his novel to public events, and trying too hard.’
      • ‘He also uses the clumsy narrative device of the flashback in attempt to generate a sense of depth in the relationship.’
      • ‘These categories are clumsy and incomplete, but I'm hoping you can deduce what I mean for the sake of brevity here.’
      • ‘It is difficult to believe that such clumsy moments derive from even a very early work by the great composer.’
      • ‘There's only so much space for awkward dialogue and clumsy exposition when you have to cram a movie full of fight scenes.’
      • ‘The clumsy frame-up attempt was as stupid as it was shortsighted.’
      • ‘It is an attempt, and a clumsy attempt, to codify the present criminal law.’
      • ‘A smaller boy on the other side of the path was laughing as some of my clumsy attempts to be ‘lady like’.’
      • ‘This clumsy attempt at democracy has soured the population.’
      awkward, uncoordinated, ungainly, graceless, ungraceful, inelegant, gawky, gauche, gangling, cloddish, blundering, lumbering
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    2. 1.2 Difficult to handle or use; unwieldy.
      ‘the legal procedure is far too clumsy’
      ‘chairs with clumsy wooden armrests’
      • ‘Place my first mobile phone next to my present one, and you see light years of difference: the old one is bulky and clumsy.’
      • ‘Iron ploughs engineered to reduce soil resistance replaced clumsy wooden ones, increasing ploughing productivity.’
      • ‘If the skis are too long, they will be clumsy and awkward.’
      • ‘The outer wooden framework, which is clumsy and heavy and painted grey, protects and cages the garland.’
      • ‘Here's an alternative to clumsy, heavy snow chains.’
      • ‘The reason seems to be that they are clumsy and difficult to manoeuvre.’
      • ‘Also, larger oars were heavy and clumsy to maneuver and required multiple oarsmen.’
      • ‘They were difficult to conceal, clumsy, expensive to manufacture, and required bulky ammunition which created stowage and logistics problems.’
      • ‘With their clumsy wooden carts, they cleared the refuse from the streets and cleaned the open drains bordering its streets.’
      • ‘No one could maintain that furious, driving rhythm - not with something as massive and clumsy as a two-handed sword!’
      • ‘They must have been clumsy and difficult to manoeuvre as well.’
      • ‘It looked and felt so clumsy, so unwieldy, so…… artificial.’
      • ‘These clumsy wood snowshoes were heavy and made walking almost impossible.’
      • ‘The weapon and its ammunition will be too heavy and clumsy for general issue and its cost per weapon and ammunition will be huge.’
      unwieldy, unmanageable, cumbersome, bulky, hulking, heavy, solid, awkward, unmanoeuvrable
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    3. 1.3 Lacking social skills and graces.
      ‘his choice of words was clumsy’
      • ‘His retaliations are clumsy and awkward in comparison.’
      • ‘Simple self promotion is jarring, far too revealing and far too blunt, gauche, clumsy, and vulgar.’
      • ‘Alex, with his clumsy manners, his awkward yet almost sweet behavior… and his captivating personality.’
      • ‘I mean, it was clumsy the way they handled it.’
      • ‘But, at the heart of this argument, I have reached the conclusion that I'm a slightly clumsy, rather ineffectual speaker.’
      • ‘His characters are often awkward and clumsy, expressing people's inability to communicate.’
      • ‘Eventually, I made our excuses and took her home, worried that I had ruined yet another woman's life with my clumsy social skills.’
      • ‘The film documents the clumsy and difficult courtship.’
      • ‘The words fell out of his mouth in a clumsy, awkward fashion that instantly made him regret talking at all.’
      • ‘I was far too clumsy in social situations to attempt a visit, not even to apologize for something that had been plaguing me with guilt all day.’
      • ‘In a complex of lonely and socially clumsy bachelors, disheartened by too many rejections, she was news.’
      • ‘There were awkward speeches saying kind and clumsy things, gauche jokes and real fondness.’
      • ‘I am pretty clumsy and awkward but I try real hard never to trespass in a way that would be offensive to a place.’
      • ‘In the end, the organization looks clumsy and amateurish.’
      gauche, awkward, graceless, unpolished, unsubtle, crude, uncouth, boorish, crass
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Late 16th century: from obsolete clumse ‘make or be numb’, probably of Scandinavian origin and related to Swedish klumsig.