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Alternative forms[edit]


From the Middle English combren, borrowed from the second element of Old French encombrer. Cognate with German kümmern (to take care of).



cumber (third-person singular simple present cumbers, present participle cumbering, simple past and past participle cumbered)

  1. (transitive, dated) To slow down; to hinder; to burden.
    • Dryden
      Why asks he what avails him not in fight, / And would but cumber and retard his flight?
    • John Locke
      The multiplying variety of arguments, especially frivolous ones, [] but cumbers the memory.
    • 1825 June 22, [Walter Scott], chapter IV, in Tales of the Crusaders. [...] In Four Volumes, volume I (The Betrothed), Edinburgh: Printed [by James Ballantyne and Co.] for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Hurst, Robinson, and Co., OCLC 5584494, page 71:
      Wounded and overthrown, the Britons continued their resistance, clung round the legs of the Norman steeds, and cumbered their advance; while their brethren, thrusting with pikes, proved every joint and crevice of the plate and mail, or grappling with the men-at-arms, strove to pull them from their horses by main force, or beat them down with their bills and Welch hooks.
    • 1886, Sir Walter Scott, The Fortunes of Nigel. Pub.: Adams & Charles Black, Edinburgh; page 321:
      [] the base villain who murdered this poor defenceless old man, when he had not, by the course of nature, a twelvemonth's life in him, shall not cumber the earth long after him.
    • 1911, Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson:
      Why had he not killed himself long ago? Why cumbered he the earth?


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See also[edit]


  • cumber” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2019.