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[en-kuhm-ber] /ɛnˈkʌm bər/
verb (used with object)
to impede or hinder; hamper; retard:
Red tape encumbers all our attempts at action.
to block up or fill with what is obstructive or superfluous:
a mind encumbered with trivial and useless information.
to burden or weigh down:
She was encumbered with a suitcase and several packages.
to burden with obligations, debt, etc.
Also, incumber.
Origin of encumber
1300-50; Middle English encombren < Anglo-French, Middle French encombrer, equivalent to en- en-1 + -combrer, verbal derivative of combre dam, weir < early Medieval Latin combrus < Gaulish *comberos confluence, bringing together (compare Quimper, in Brittany < Breton Kemper); see com-, bear1
Related forms
encumberingly, adverb
unencumbered, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for encumber
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I went on, nevertheless, with a good deal of patience, thinking that his encumber'd circumstances were partly the cause.

  • She can not encumber or dispose of her separate estate without his joinder.

  • For be had resolved to go forth into the world and make his fortune, not to encumber his poor mother with his support any longer.

    Bressant Julian Hawthorne
  • You are taking the pieces of our ship along—we do not want to encumber you.

    Spacehounds of IPC Edward Elmer Smith
  • I didn't wish to encumber—Your chaise is broken down: get into this one.

    Philip Winwood Robert Neilson Stephens
  • I thought it better not to encumber the address to working men with details.

  • At first we should not encumber our pupils with accurate demonstration.

  • Therefore she must not encumber herself with many belongings.

    In the Roar of the Sea Sabine Baring-Gould
  • If you do you will only complicate and spoil your game and encumber your locker with much useless rubbish.

British Dictionary definitions for encumber


verb (transitive)
to hinder or impede; make difficult; hamper: encumbered with parcels after going shopping at Christmas, his stupidity encumbers his efforts to learn
to fill with superfluous or useless matter
to burden with debts, obligations, etc
Derived Forms
encumberingly, incumberingly, adverb
Word Origin
C14: from Old French encombrer, from en-1 + combre a barrier, from Late Latin combrus, of uncertain origin
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 encumber

early 14c., "burden, vex, inconvenience," from Old French encombrer "to block up, hinder, thwart," from Late Latin incombrare, from in- "in" (see in- (2)) + combrus "barricade, obstacle," probably from Latin cumulus "heap." Meaning "hinder, hamper" is attested in English from late 14c. Related: Encumbered; encumbering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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