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Old form of burden. Compare similar development in murder.



burthen (plural burthens)

  1. (obsolete or historical, nautical) The tonnage of a ship based on the number of tuns of wine that it could carry in its holds.
    • 1940 December, Charles E. Lee, “The Wenford Mineral Line”, in Railway Magazine, pages 647, from the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, October 3, 1834:
      [...] and thence to Calstock, a town on the Tamar, which is washed by the sea flowing through Plymouth Sound and Hamoaze, and which place vessels of 200 tons burthen can reach at spring tides—[...].
  2. Archaic form of burden.
    • 1798, William Wordsworth, Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey, lines 36–43:
      Nor less, I trust,
      To them I may have owed another gift,
      Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
      In which the burthen of the mystery,
      In which the heavy and the weary weight
      Of all this unintelligible world,
      Is lightened:
    • 1817 (date written), [Jane Austen], Persuasion; published in Northanger Abbey: And Persuasion. [], volumes (please specify |volume=III or IV), London: John Murray, [], 20 December 1817 (indicated as 1818), →OCLC:
      It was with a daughter of Mr Shepherd, who had returned, after an unprosperous marriage, to her father's house, with the additional burthen of two children.
    • 1848, John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy: With Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy. [], volume I, London: John W[illiam] Parker, [], →OCLC, book I (Production), page 19:
      In some cases the conquering state contented itself with imposing a tribute on the vanquished: who, being, in consideration of that burthen, freed from the expense and trouble of their own military and naval protection, might enjoy under it a considerable share of economical prosperity, []
    • c. 1860, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Husbandsmen, lines 4, 6-7:
      Bidding them grope their way out and bestir,
      [] though the worst
      Burthen of heat was theirs and the dry thirst


burthen (third-person singular simple present burthens, present participle burthening, simple past and past participle burthened)

  1. Archaic form of burden.
    • 1881–1882, Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island, London, Paris: Cassell & Company, published 14 November 1883, →OCLC:
      he other men were variously burthened; some carrying picks and shovels – for that had been the very first necessary they brought ashore from the Hispaniola – others laden with pork, bread, and brandy for the midday meal.