Definition of unwieldy in US English:



  • 1Difficult to carry or move because of its size, shape, or weight.

    ‘the first mechanical clocks were large and unwieldy’
    • ‘As a downside, they're rather hot and unwieldy, being difficult to remove in a hurry.’
    • ‘A one-handed lift can be used for picking up all objects except the heaviest or most unwieldy items.’
    • ‘Over time, with the emergence of smaller houses to suit the nuclear family, they were discarded as unwieldy and old fashioned.’
    • ‘It's more expensive, and from personal experience, somewhat unwieldy, but it may help solve your problem.’
    • ‘I've just opened an invitation to a launch party, which was encased in the sharpest, heaviest, most unwieldy envelope in the western world.’
    • ‘His handcrafted planks are anything but dense and unwieldy.’
    • ‘But their size makes them unwieldy in city streets, and their acceleration is not tremendous.’
    • ‘True, his bike was unwieldy by modern standards, weighing 57 lb, but it was, and is, clearly the world's first such machine.’
    • ‘It is about to become a very long, heavy, unwieldy and unreliable train, one that the traditional Franco-German engine will not be able to pull alone.’
    • ‘The mask's unwieldy construction made it difficult to fall asleep.’
    • ‘Large books, he advises, are often costly and somewhat unwieldy.’
    • ‘The RX helicopter gently lowers its unwieldy load like a mother lying her child on the ground.’
    • ‘Accompanied by bugles, two picadors then make their way out, their horses sheathed in an unwieldy but effective armour.’
    • ‘So the books that you read shouldn't be too unwieldy in weight, nor contain particularly tight typesetting or small font size.’
    • ‘It was bulky, unwieldy and would not go far, given the cost of satellite transponders.’
    • ‘The elephant, unwieldy and awkward yet graceful and powerful, becomes an allegory for the form itself.’
    • ‘It was becoming increasingly difficult to hide his unwieldy bulk.’
    • ‘Their balance is incredible, but you understand it when you see them herding horses with their long willow poles, which are so heavy and unwieldy.’
    • ‘The sledge hammer my father used was as unwieldy as ever, so I began with the smaller toys, smashing them with the joy of a titan.’
    • ‘It also sounds like the noise that the aforementioned primary school child would make if they were given an unwieldy cello with which to hone their skills.’
    cumbersome, unmanageable, unhandy, unmanoeuvrable
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    1. 1.1 (of a system or bureaucracy) too big or badly organized to function efficiently.
      • ‘They expect him to cut the unwieldy board by 10, give the public a bigger voice.’
      • ‘Critics say the plan would create an unwieldy bureaucracy with a hidden agenda.’
      • ‘As cavalry platoons became too unwieldy, they were finally replaced by smaller paired tank and scout platoons.’
      • ‘It also criticised it for not reacting to signals from the market place and for having a structure that's too unwieldy and fragmented.’
      • ‘The project of fixing our political system is an unwieldy one for those of us with a theoretical bent.’
      • ‘What is dismaying is that the salary bill and the administrative costs go on rising, which means the size of the government continues to be unwieldy.’
      • ‘This presupposes a reasonably developed infrastructure and thus a system less unwieldy than that of the United Nations.’
      • ‘The fear was that such a big country was so unwieldy that there would be a tendency for a central authoritarian ruler to emerge.’
      • ‘Last year, he, frustrated by the unwieldy size of the board of directors, decided he would quit.’
      • ‘In 2001, he inherited a large and unwieldy agency in post-Cold War drift.’
      • ‘Having all 12 clubs at a monthly meeting has proved unwieldy, so a smaller board will meet monthly with a general meeting taking place every two months.’
      • ‘The large and unwieldy, Department of Human Resources Canada has been broken up into two departments.’
      • ‘Paper ballots and physical presence in the polling station make the system too unwieldy to hack.’
      • ‘He admitted the CFP was a ‘very unwieldy piece of legislation’ but insisted that progress was being made.’
      • ‘Fiba is an unwieldy bureaucracy that is not much concerned with policing its teams.’
      • ‘The Cabinet already looked unwieldy for a population so small and which needed instead a lean and mean Cabinet to start delivering.’
      • ‘But you soon realise big organisations are unwieldy.’
      • ‘The president of the union Siptu also voiced concern that the negotiations would become unwieldy.’
      • ‘While this would be less unwieldy than a system of financial payments, it is still not ideal.’
      • ‘The Roman empire had maintained an unwieldy and elaborate tax system, based mainly on landed property and its agricultural exploitation.’


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘lacking strength, infirm’): from un- ‘not’ + wieldy (in the obsolete sense ‘active’).