• klutz •
Pronunciation: klêts • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A dolt, a jerk, a schlemiel, a putz (in the civil sense), a blockhead, which is to say, a clumsy, awkward person who seldom gets anything right.
Notes: Klutziness is the abstract noun that pinpoints the klutz's problem. As you can see in the definition above, the concept is widespread enough that English has had to joined forces with Yiddish to create a plethora of words to express it. The noun allows the adjective klutzy (klutzier, klutziest). Don't forget to add E when you write the plural, klutzes.
In Play: The fun in this word is that it is almost onomatopoetic; it just sounds right for its meaning: "M. T. Head is such a klutz, he tied his shoes together and fell on the dog when he tried to stand up." That example gives you some idea of what defines a klutz. M. T.'s sister, Lucinda, is just as klutzy: "In the middle of summer that klutz, Lucinda Head, left a dozen chocolate bars on top of her dashboard; now it's chocolate coated."
Word History: This word is another gift from Yiddish, this time klots "block, log," borrowed from German Klotz with the same meaning. The semantic connection here parallels that of our own blockhead, which originally referred to a wooden block on which hats are shaped. The same root behind the German word turned up in English as both clot and clod. Also related is Old English clæg "clay", which became clay in Modern English. Another related word is Latin gluten "glue"—the glue that makes for a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast? Anyway, it is the source of English glue. This word is historically unrelated to the Klux in Ku Klux Klan, though it is understandable if you pronounce it Ku Klutz Klan. (Thanks to Katy Brezger and Jackie Strauss for yet another wonderful word that will probably go over the heads of klutzes.)