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Untoward

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  • Due to the presence of the negative prefix ­un-, the adjective untoward sounds like it should mean the opposite of toward—that is, away. But in modern usage, the adjective means (1) not favorable, (2) troublesome, (3) hard to guide or control, and (4) improper. The word comes from a mostly archaic sense of toward—namely, propitious or favorable. While this use of toward has fallen out of the language, its antonym, untoward, remains.

    Although British and Australian English favor towards instead of toward, this does not carry over to the adjective untowardUntowards is extremely rare.

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    Examples

    They do not delude themselves that nothing untoward goes on on their watch. [Sydney Morning Herald]

    Being in the front line, bank branch staff have a duty to keep an eye open for untoward goings-on in customers’ accounts.  [Daily Mail]

    Assuming nothing untoward happens in training this week, the only doubt is at left back. [Sports Illustrated]

    With the help of an occasional forum of inquiry, Albertans are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves whether anything untoward has gone on. [Edmonton Journal]

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