Difference between Clumsy and Awkward


The adjective awkward is used to describe a noun such as a person, animal or thing. It adds extra information to the noun and depending on the context it can have various meanings.
If somebody is uncoordinated or lacking in dexterity, we can describe these people as awkward. This description isn’t exclusive to people it can be used with any living thing. If you can imagine the ungraceful movements of a fawn learning how to walk or the unskilled movements of a person learning to play the violin.
Here are some example sentences:

  • Playing the piano was awkward for John as he had never played a musical instrument before.
  • The ballet dancer was awkward during the recital as she wasn’t familiar with the new routine.
  • Some people don’t enjoy practising yoga as they find the movements too awkward.
  • The calf made his first awkward steps towards his mother.

If somebody feels embarrassed, flustered or even ashamed in a certain social situation we can describe this as feeling awkward. An awkward situation describes a situation in which somebody feels uncomfortable in.
For example:

  • He felt very awkward meeting his ex-wife’s new husband for the first time.
  • The two sisters had been fighting for weeks, the other family members felt very awkward when the sisters were in the same room together as they refused to talk to one another.
  • When he finally admitted stealing money from his parents, the room was silent and tension was in the air. It was an awkward situation for everyone involved.
  • After our lovely dinner, Michael refused to pay because he didn’t think the food was up to his standard. It was very awkward. In the end we decided to pay for his meal as we didn’t think he was being fair.

If somebody is described as awkward it means they feel uncomfortable in many social situations and may lack certain social skills.
Below is a dialogue between two friends as an example:

Kate: Did you enjoy the party last night?
Tom: I had a great time, did you?
Kate: Yes, I thought it was a great party. It’s a shame your brother didn’t come, why doesn’t he ever come to my parties?
Tom: William doesn’t enjoy going to parties or social gatherings he feels really uncomfortable and doesn’t know how to interact with a big group of people.
Kate: I didn’t know that.
Tom: He can be really awkward sometimes and just can’t handle meeting a lot of new people at once.
Kate: To be completely honest with you, I did think he was a bit awkward the first time I met him. It’s a pity he feels uncomfortable in those situations because he’s a really nice guy.
Tom: He is, he’s a completely different person at home where he feels comfortable with the people around him. He isn’t awkward at all.

As you can see from the explanations above, the adjective awkward can be used to describe a person or situation that is uncomfortable or uncoordinated.
The adjective clumsy is a synonym of awkward and describes a person that is uncoordinated, unskilled, inelegant and not dextrous.
For example:

  • Sofia is so clumsy! She keeps dropping plates and breaking glasses, she is the worst waitress we have every had in the restaurant.
  • His clumsy hands didn’t have the skill to play the harp.
  • The teacher corrected the student’s clumsy sentences in disbelief, it was clear the student hadn’t been listening in class.
  • In rehearsal the new dancer was very clumsy, it was clear she needed a lot more practice before the show.
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