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From Middle English combren, borrowed from the second element of Old French encombrer, ultimately from Proto-Celtic *kombereti (to bring together). Cognate with German kümmern (to take care of).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈkʌmbə/
    • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌmbə(ɹ)


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; to encumber.
    • 1717, John Dryden [et al.], “(please specify |book=I to XV)”, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Fifteen Books. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], OCLC 731548838:
      Why asks he what avails him not in fight, / And would but cumber and retard his flight?
    • a. 1705, John Locke, “Of the Conduct of the Understanding”, in Posthumous Works of Mr. John Locke: [], London: [] A[wnsham] and J[ohn] Churchill, [], published 1706, OCLC 6963663:
      The multiplying variety of arguments, especially frivolous ones, [] but cumbers the memory.
    • 1825 June 22, [Walter Scott], chapter IV, in Tales of the Crusaders. [], volume I (The Betrothed), Edinburgh: [] [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.
    • 1898, H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, London: William Heinemann, page 290:
      [T]hese people, whose name, much as I would like to express my gratitude to them, I may not even give here, nevertheless cumbered themselves with me, sheltered me and protected me from myself.
    • 1911, Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson:
      Why had he not killed himself long ago? Why cumbered he the earth?
    • 1938, Norman Lindsay, Age of Consent, Sydney: Ure Smith, published 1962, OCLC 751607287, page 98:
      Moreover, that distinctive hair of hers was screwed up into a tight plait and she carried a heavy basket on her hip and a weighted bucket of oysters in her other hand, which cumbered the grace of her body and turned her into the dull replica of any other peasant creature.


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