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A stack of wooden lumber
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Exact origin unknown. The earliest recorded reference was to heavy, useless objects such as old, discarded furniture. Perhaps from the verb lumber in reference to meaning "awkward to move". Possibly influenced by Lumbar, an obsolete variant of Lombard, the Italian immigrant class known for being pawnbrokers and money-lenders in early England.



lumber (usually uncountable, plural lumbers)

  1. (Canada, US) Wood sawn into planks or otherwise prepared for sale or use, especially as a building material. [from 17th c.]
    • 1782, H. de Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer:
      Here they live by fishing on the most plentiful coasts in the world; there they fell trees, by the sides of large rivers, for masts and lumber [] .
    • 4 December 1883, Chester A. Arthur, Third State of the Union Address
      The resources of Alaska, especially in fur, mines, and lumber, are considerable in extent and capable of large development, while its geographical situation is one of political and commercial importance.;
  2. (now rare) Old furniture or other items that take up room, or are stored away. [from 16th c.]
    • 1751, [Tobias] Smollett, “The memoirs of a lady of quality”, in The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle [], volume III, London: Harrison and Co., [], →OCLC, page 170:
      On the ſecond day of my impriſonment, I was viſited by the duke of L⁠—⁠—, a friend of my lord, who found me ſitting upon a trunk, in a poor little dining-room filled with lumber, and lighted with two bits of tallow-candle, which had been left over night.
    • 1783, William Cowper, letter, 10 November:
      We made all haste down stairs, and soon threw open the street door, for the reception of as much lumber, of all sorts, as our house would hold, brought into it by several who thought it necessary to move their furniture.
  3. (figurative) Useless or cumbrous material. [from 17th c.]
  4. (obsolete) A pawnbroker's shop, or room for storing articles put in pawn; hence, a pledge, or pawn. [17th–18th c.]
    • a. 1746, Lady Grisell Baillie Murray, Memoirs of the Lives and Characters of the Right Honourable George Baillie
      They put all the little plate they had [] in the lumber, which is pawning it, till the ships came.
  5. (baseball, slang) A baseball bat.
  6. (vulgar, slang) An erect penis.


Derived terms[edit]



lumber (third-person singular simple present lumbers, present participle lumbering, simple past and past participle lumbered)

  1. (intransitive) To move clumsily and heavily; to move slowly.
    • 1816, [Walter Scott], The Antiquary. [], volumes (please specify |volume=I to III), Edinburgh: [] James Ballantyne and Co. for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, →OCLC:
      ...he was only apprized of the arrival of the Monkbarns division by the gee-hupping of the postilion, as the post-chaise lumbered up behind him.
    • 1938, Norman Lindsay, Age of Consent, 1st Australian edition, Sydney, N.S.W.: Ure Smith, published 1962, →OCLC, page 221:
      The trooper climbed back on the rock and slid down to take the cadaver lowered to him by Bradly, who lumbered down to assist in carrying it.
    • 2002, Russell Allen, "Incantations of the Apprentice", on Symphony X, The Odyssey.
      Through eerie reach of ancient woods / Where lumbering mists arise / I journey for nines moons of the year / To where a land of legend lies
  2. (transitive, with with) To load down with things, to fill, to encumber, to impose an unwanted burden on.
    They’ve lumbered me with all these suitcases.
    I got lumbered with that boring woman all afternoon.
  3. To heap together in disorder.
    • 1677, Thomas Rymer, The Tragedies of the Last Age Consider'd:
      so much stuff lumberd together
  4. To fill or encumber with lumber.
    to lumber up a room
  5. (transitive, slang, obsolete) To pawn (goods).

Related terms[edit]