I love this word. It has so much story at its heart! At a basic level it means clumsy or awkward, but because it is a word that defines itself by the absence of a characteristic, it becomes so much more. It’s almost accusatory.
And “grace” is such a complex word, too. It doesn’t just mean “elegance” (of form, motion and manner), but can also refer to being in a state of favour or having been extended mercy. So to be “graceless” is not just to be awkward, but there are also overtones of having fallen into disfavour and being denied clemency. Pitiable indeed!
Furthermore, there are also some nice ecclesiastical overtones from “being in a state of grace”, which call up echos of a deeper fall into ignominy.
Favourite use of the word “graceless”… In the inimitable Florence & the Machine’s Shake It Out.
And it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back
So shake him off.
And I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart.