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[kuhm-ber] /ˈkʌm bər/
verb (used with object)
to hinder; hamper.
to overload; burden.
to inconvenience; trouble.
a hindrance.
something that cumbers.
Archaic. embarrassment; trouble.
Origin of cumber
1250-1300; Middle English cumbre (noun), cumbren (v.), aphetic variant of acumbren to harass, defeat; see encumber
Related forms
cumberer, noun
cumberment, noun
overcumber, verb (used with object)
uncumbered, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for cumber
Historical Examples
  • Nor is it a cumber: it being no more than a small portion of rice, and a little sugar and hony.

    Constantinople William Holden Hutton
  • Why should I cumber myself with regrets that the receiver is not capacious?

    Essays, First Series Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The sorrows, the “cumber” of which Knox was “alleged” to bear the blame, did not end with his death.

  • We cannot spare the time to take them now, or cumber ourselves with them when taken.

    With Airship and Submarine Harry Collingwood
  • Why complicate and cumber life with relations that do but give a foothold to pain, and offer less than they threaten?

    The History of David Grieve Mrs. Humphry Ward
  • I have not wished to cumber my pages with constant quotations.

  • Two men abreast could not beset him, since one must cumber the movements of the other.

    St. Martin's Summer Rafael Sabatini
  • How much longer is that Joseph to be allowed to cumber London?

    The Angel Cyril Arthur Edward Ranger Gull
  • He was at all times extremely anxious not to cumber the list of pears with worthless varieties.

    The Pears of New York U. P. Hedrick
  • "They were juist a cumber and a care," continued the carrier's wife.

    Cleg Kelly, Arab of the City S. R. (Samuel Rutherford) Crockett
British Dictionary definitions for cumber


verb (transitive)
to obstruct or hinder
(obsolete) to inconvenience
a hindrance or burden
Derived Forms
cumberer, noun
Word Origin
C13: probably from Old French combrer to impede, prevent, from combre barrier; see encumber
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for cumber

c.1300, "to overthrow, destroy; to be overwhelmed; to harass," apparently from French, but Old French combrer "to seize hold of, lay hands on, grab, snatch, take by force, rape," has not quite the same sense. Perhaps a shortened formation from a verb akin to Middle English acombren "obstructing progress," from Old French encombrer, from combre "obstruction, barrier," from Vulgar Latin *comboros "that which is carried together," perhaps from a Gaulish word.

The likely roots are PIE *kom (see com-) + *bher- (1) "to bear" (see infer). Weakened sense of "to hamper, to obstruct or weigh down" is late 14c. Related: Cumbered; cumbering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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