The words forward, backward, eastward and westward all share the suffix -ward, which indicates a course or direction to, or motion or tendency toward.

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-ward comes from the Old English -weard (in the direction of, toward), from Proto-Germanic *wardaz, from *warþaz (turned toward, in the direction of, facing), from the Proto-Indo-European *wert- (to turn, wind) [source].

Other directional words the feature this suffix include: inward, outward, northward, southward, leftward, rightward, homeward, seaward, landward and awkward [source].

Awkward?? What direction is that?

Awkward means:

  • Lacking dexterity in the use of the hands, or of instruments.
  • Not easily managed or effected; embarrassing.
  • Lacking social skills, or uncomfortable with social interaction.
  • Perverse; adverse; difficult to handle.

Originally it meant “in a backwards direction” [source].

Awk is an obsolete word that means:

  • Odd, out of order, perverse.
  • Wrong, not commonly used, clumsy, sinister.
  • Clumsy in performance or manners; not dexterous.
  • Uncomfortable, awkward.
  • Perversely; in the wrong way

Awk comes from the Old Norse ǫfugr (turned backwards), from the Proto-Germanic *abuhaz (turned the wrong way, inverted; wicked, bad) [source].

Words from the same root include öfugur (reversed, inverted, backwards, wrong) in Icelandic, and äbich (inside out) in German [source].

So being awkward means you’re going backwards or heading in the wrong direction. That’s fine with me – I am a bit awkward sometimes, particularly in social interactions and situations, or you could say that I just go in my own direction.

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