mid-14c. (adv.), "in the wrong direction," from awk "back-handed" + adverbial suffix -weard (see -ward). The original sense is obsolete. As an adjective, "turned the wrong way," 1510s. Meaning "clumsy, wanting ease and grace in movement" recorded by 1520s. Of persons, the meaning "embarrassed, ill-at-ease" is from 1713s. Related: Awkwardly. Other 15c.-17c. formations from awk, none of them surviving, were awky, awkly, awkness.