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From Middle English wẹ̄ldī, weldy (agile, vigorous; of a shield: easy or satisfying to wield),[1] from wẹ̄lden, welde (to govern, preside over, reign, rule; to command, control, dominate; to dwell, reside; to accomplish, bring about; to overcome, prevail; to handle (a tool, weapon, etc.), use),[2] from Old English wylde (controlling, dominant), from Proto-Germanic *waldiz (manageable; powerful), possibly ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₂welh₁- (to rule; powerful, strong); analysable as wield +‎ -y. Later uses of sense 2 (“capable of being easily wielded”) are likely a back-formation from unwieldy.[3]



wieldy (comparative wieldier, superlative wieldiest)

  1. (obsolete except Britain, dialectal) Able to wield one's body well; active, dexterous.
    Synonyms: agile, nimble, vigorous
    • c. 1380s, [Geoffrey Chaucer; William Caxton, editor], The Double Sorow of Troylus to Telle Kyng Pryamus Sone of Troye [...] [Troilus and Criseyde] (in Middle English), [Westminster]: Explicit per Caxton, published 1482, OCLC 863541017; republished in [William Thynne], editor, The Workes of Geffray Chaucer Newlye Printed, [], book II, [London]: Printed by [Richard Grafton for] Iohn Reynes [], 1542, OCLC 932884868, folio clxxvi, verso, lines 412–413, column 1:
      So freſhe, ſo yonge, ſo weldy ſemed he / It was an heuen upon him for to ſe
      So fresh, so young, so nimble seemed he / It was a heaven upon him for to see
    • 1781, [Tobias] Smollett, “The Doctor Prepares an Entertainment in the Manner of the Ancients, which is Attended with Divers Ridiculous Circumstances”, in The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle [] In Four Volumes, volume II, London: Printed for Harrison and Co., [], OCLC 316121541, page 131:
      But the baron, who was neither ſo wieldy nor ſupple in his joints as his companions, flounced himſelf down with ſuch precipitation, that his feet ſuddenly tilting up, came in furious contact with the head of the marquis, []
    • 1868 November, “Her Winning Ways. A Novel.”, in William Harrison Ainsworth, editor, The New Monthly Magazine, volume CXLIII, number DLXXV, London: Hard Bentley, [], OCLC 839895415, chapter IX (Starved at a Feast), page 513:
      She bore the proportions of a marchioness all over; that is, was more wieldy than a duchess, more unwieldy than a countess. [] [T]he Marchioness of Clanweary was wieldy and limp; she moved herself surprisingly, and if not for too long together, was a good walker; but her feet were too small for her in the long run.
  2. Capable of being easily wielded or managed; handy.
    Synonyms: manageable, wieldsome
    Antonym: unwieldy
    • 1656, Peter Heylyn, “Our Journey down the Some, and Company. [...]”, in A Survey of the Estate of France, and of Some of the Adjoyning Ilands: [], Printed by E. Coates for Henry Seile, [], OCLC 1051501183, page 183:
      July the 30. we took boat to go down to Abbeville, by the river of Some; a river of no great breadth, but deep and full; the boat which carryed us was much of the making of thoſe Lighters which live on the Thames, but that is was made more wieldie and fit for ſpeed.
    • 1680, Geo[rge] Delgarno, “The Introduction, with a Key to the Following Discourse”, in Didascalocophus or The Deaf and Dumb Mans Tutor, [], Oxford: Printed at the Theater, OCLC 926192495:
      About twenty years agoe, I publiſhed, Latiali but rudi Minerva, a Synopſis of a Philoſophical Grammar and Lexicon; [] deſigning not only to remedie the confuſion of Languages, by giving a much more eaſie medium of communication than any yet known; but alſo to cure even Philoſophy it ſelf of the diſeaſe of Sophiſms, and Logomachies; as alſo to provide her with more wieldy and manageable Inſtruments of operation, for defining, dividing, demonſtrating, &c.
    • 1809 December, “Dleifyarb” [pseudonym], “On Popular Sporting Amusements”, in The Sporting Magazine or Monthly Calendar, of the Transactions of the Turf, the Chase, and Every Other Diversion Interesting to the Man of Pleasure, Enterprize & Spirit, volume XXXV, number CCVII, London: Printed for J[ohn] Wheble, [], published 1810, OCLC 173729019, page 128, column 2:
      In former ages, the quarter-staff was a formidable weapon— [] To this heavy staff succeeded the lighter single-stick, or cudgel, which was more wieldy, portable, and elegant.
    • 1821, “The Universe. A Poem. By the Rev. C. R. Maturin. [review]”, in The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, volume I, number I, London: Henry Colburn and Co. [], OCLC 7489271, page 712:
      We take leave of Mr. [Charles Robert] Maturin, wishing to see his agreeable genius exercised on wieldier subjects than the Universe, and objecting to that theme, to borrow two of his own expressions, "most chiefly" on account of its "vastitude."
    • 1960 August – 1961 January, The Motor, volume 118, London: Temple Press, OCLC 145379637, page 484, column 2:
      I realized a split second too late that for perhaps 70 yards the surface was coated with slime, evidently deposited by farm carts crossing between staggered gates on opposite sides of the road. The car I was driving, not the wieldiest of vehicles, started to slide.
    • 1964, Thomas C. Croker, Jr., Two H-C Furrow Seeders (U.S. Forest Service Research Note; SO-5), New Orleans, La.: Southern Forest Experiment Station, Forest Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, OCLC 258425323, page 1:
      This machine requires more power than the compact model, is less wieldy, and is somewhat more difficult to keep in adjustment.
    • 1994 July 25, Jack Winter, “How I Met My Wife”, in The New Yorker[1], New York, N.Y.: New Yorker Magazine Inc., ISSN 0028-792X, OCLC 243417341, archived from the original on 25 October 2017, page 82:
      I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner.

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  1. ^ wẹ̄ldī, adj.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 1 December 2018.
  2. ^ wẹ̄lden, v.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 1 December 2018.
  3. ^ wieldy, adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1924; “wieldy” (US) / “wieldy” (UK) in Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press.