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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English lyme, lim, from Old English lim (limb, branch), from Proto-West Germanic *limu, from Proto-Germanic *limuz (branch, limb). Cognate with Old Norse limr (limb).

The spelling with the silent unetymological -b first arose in the late 1500s. Compare crumb and climb.


limb (plural limbs)

  1. A major appendage of human or animal, used for locomotion (such as an arm, leg or wing).
    • Three chairs of the steamer type, all maimed, comprised the furniture of this roof-garden, with [] on one of the copings a row of four red clay flower-pots filled with sun-baked dust from which gnarled and rusty stalks thrust themselves up like withered elfin limbs.
  1. A branch of a tree.
    Synonym: bough
  2. (archery) The part of the bow, from the handle to the tip.
  3. An elementary piece of the mechanism of a lock.
  4. A thing or person regarded as a part or member of, or attachment to, something else.
  5. Short for limb of Satan (a wicked or mischievous child).
Derived terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


limb (third-person singular simple present limbs, present participle limbing, simple past and past participle limbed)

  1. (transitive) To remove the limbs from (an animal or tree).
    They limbed the felled trees before cutting them into logs.
  2. (transitive) To supply with limbs.
    • 1667, John Milton, “(please specify the book number)”, in Paradise Lost. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], [], →OCLC; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, →OCLC:
      Innumerous living creatures , perfect forms ,
      Limb'd and full grown: out of the ground uprose
    • 1859, Henry D. Thoreau, Walden:
      Man was not made so large limbed and robust but that he must seek to narrow his world and wall in a space such as fitted him.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Latin limbus (border).


limb (plural limbs)

  1. (astronomy) The apparent visual edge of a celestial body.
    the solar limb
    • 1870, United States Naval Observatory, Reports on Observations of the Total Eclipse of the Sun, August, 7, 1869, page 174:
      At 4h 57m 9s by my chronometer, (see Schedule B,) I observed with my telescope a small black speck on the preceding limb of the sun's disk, at the precise point to which I had been for some minutes directing my attention.
    • 2015, Ludmilla Kolokolova; James Hough; Anny-Chantal Levasseur-Regourd, Polarimetry of Stars and Planetary Systems, page 449:
      Chandrasekhar (1946a, b) predicted that the limb of a star will be polarized, because photons scattered at the limb and toward the observer experience a scattering angle of Θ ≈ 90°.
  2. (on a measuring instrument) The graduated edge of a circle or arc.
  3. (botany) The border or upper spreading part of a monopetalous corolla, or of a petal or sepal; blade.
    • 1945, “A new form of the moonvine Calonyction aculeatum with divided corolla limb, and length-of-day behavior and flowering of the common form”, in Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, volume 35, number 2:
      The corolla limb of the moonvine Calonyction aculeatum is normally undivided.
Derived terms[edit]

See also[edit]