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See also: Bürden


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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English burden, birden, burthen, birthen, byrthen, from Old English byrden, byrþen (burden, load, weight; charge, duty), from Proto-Germanic *burþinjō (burden), from Proto-Germanic *burþį̄ (burden), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰer- (to carry, bear). Cognate with Scots burthine (burden), Middle Low German borden (burden), Middle High German bürden (burden, load). Related to Old English byrd (burden), German Bürde (burden, weight), Danish byrde (burden), Swedish börde (burden), Norwegian bør (burden), Icelandic byrði (burden).

Alternative forms[edit]



burden (plural burdens)

  1. A heavy load.
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, Moonfleet Chapter 4
      There were four or five men in the vault already, and I could hear more coming down the passage, and guessed from their heavy footsteps that they were carrying burdens.
  2. A responsibility, onus.
  3. A cause of worry; that which is grievous, wearisome, or oppressive.
    • Jonathan Swift
      Deaf, giddy, helpless, left alone, / To all my friends a burden grown.
  4. The capacity of a vessel, or the weight of cargo that she will carry.
    a ship of a hundred tons burden
  5. (mining) The tops or heads of stream-work which lie over the stream of tin.
  6. (metalworking) The proportion of ore and flux to fuel, in the charge of a blast furnace.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Raymond to this entry?)
  7. A fixed quantity of certain commodities.
    A burden of gad steel is 120 pounds.
  8. (obsolete, rare) A birth.
    That bore thee at a burden two fair sons
  9. (medicine) The total amount of toxins, parasites, cancer cells, plaque or the such present in an organism.

Derived terms[edit]

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


burden (third-person singular simple present burdens, present participle burdening, simple past and past participle burdened)

  1. (transitive) To encumber with a burden (in any of the noun senses of the word).
    to burden a nation with taxes
    • Bible, 2 Corinthians viii. 13
      I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened.
    • Shakespeare
      My burdened heart would break.
  2. To impose, as a load or burden; to lay or place as a burden (something heavy or objectionable).
    • Coleridge
      It is absurd to burden this act on Cromwell.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Old French bordon. See bourdon.


burden (plural burdens)

  1. (music) A phrase or theme that recurs at the end of each verse in a folk song or ballad.
    • 1610, The Tempest, by Shakespeare, act 1 scene 2
      [...] Foot it featly here and there; / And, sweet sprites, the burden bear.
    • 1846, E. A. Poe, The Philosophy of Composition
      As commonly used, the refrain, or burden, not only is limited to lyric verse, but depends for its impression upon the force of monotone - both in sound and thought.
  2. The drone of a bagpipe.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Ruddiman to this entry?)
  3. (obsolete) Theme, core idea.