August 3, 2022

Wonky / adjective / won·ky

Do you remember having a day where everything seemed to go wrong? It sounds like you were having a "wonky" day!

Wonky is an adjective we use to describe things that are "off center," "crooked," or "askew." We've used the formal sense of the word wonky since 1978 to describe situations that feel a bit "off" or "not quite right."

In an informal sense, the word wonky represents crooked, shaky, or unsteady things. The formal sense of "wonky" describes things or situations that are "faulty" or not working right.

In a Sentence

She told the appliance repairman the washing machine has been acting wonky lately and not getting the clothes entirely clean.

The tilted painting on the wall in the entryway seemed wonky to the guests at the party.

She told him to be careful when driving the car to the mechanic because the back tire felt wonky the last time she drove it.

Etymology

Etymologists say we don't know the exact origins of the word wonky, but they suspect it has ties to German and Old English.

We derive the word "wonky" from the German and Old English terms describing things that have gone awry.

Wonky entered the language in 1918 or 1919 as a descriptor of the word "wonk." The original definition related to a person obsessed with arcane details that are of no interest to others. We call these kinds of people "nerds" in today's slang. The current definition of the word wonky gained popularity in the English language around 1978 when we started using it to describe shaky situations that aren't quite right.

Synonym

Shaky, Unstable

Antonym

Stable, Solid

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