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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. (now rare) Old furniture or other items that take up room, or are stored away. [from 16th c.]
    • 1751, Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, vol. III, ch. 88:
      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.
  2. (figuratively) Useless or cumbrous material. [from 17th c.]
    • 1711, Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism:
      The bookful blockhead ignorantly read, / With loads of learned lumber in his head, []
  3. (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.
  4. (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 [] .
    • 1883, Chester A. Arthur, Third State of the Union Address, 4 December:
      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.;
  5. (baseball, slang) A baseball bat.




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, Sir Walter Scott, The Antiquary
      ...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.
    • 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

Related terms[edit]