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[lim] /lɪm/
a part or member of an animal body distinct from the head and trunk, as a leg, arm, or wing:
the lower limbs; artificial limbs.
a large or main branch of a tree.
a projecting part or member:
the four limbs of a cross.
a person or thing regarded as a part, member, branch, offshoot, or scion of something:
a limb of the central committee.
Archery. the upper or lower part of a bow.
Informal. a mischievous child, imp, or young scamp.
verb (used with object)
to cut the limbs from (a felled tree).
out on a limb, in a dangerous or compromising situation; vulnerable:
The company overextended itself financially and was soon out on a limb.
Origin of limb1
before 900; Middle English, Old English lim; akin to Old Norse lim foliage, limr limb, līmi rod, Latin līmus aslant, līmen threshold
Related forms
limbless, adjective
Can be confused
limb, limn.
1. extremity. 2. See branch. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for limbless
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In its midst was a blackened tree-trunk, limbless, 150 riven; a forest giant blasted by some mountain storm.

    In the Brooding Wild Ridgwell Cullum
  • It does not explain, for example, how limbs developed in a limbless organism.

    The Making of Species Douglas Dewar
  • For our present purpose we may again divide the vertebrates into limbed and limbless.

  • And the cheerfulness of the limbless men in blue is something wonderful.

  • Out of the second sack had fallen the limbless trunk of a dead man, cold and appalling even in this uncertain light.

    Robin Hood Paul Creswick
  • In this limbless, senseless state the females remain fall and winter.

  • His left arm swung helplessly and he could not climb the limbless lower trunk of a lance tree with only one arm.

    Space Prison Tom Godwin
  • Many a limbless British soldier owes his life to the surgeon of the Civil Hospital.

    Wounded and a Prisoner of War Malcolm V. (Malcolm Vivian) Hay
  • One shell killed thirty one night, and their bodies lay strewn, headless and limbless, at the corner of the Grande Place.

    Now It Can Be Told Philip Gibbs
British Dictionary definitions for limbless


an arm or leg, or the analogous part on an animal, such as a wing
any of the main branches of a tree
a branching or projecting section or member; extension
a person or thing considered to be a member, part, or agent of a larger group or thing
(mainly Brit) a mischievous child (esp in limb of Satan or limb of the devil)
out on a limb
  1. in a precarious or questionable position
  2. (Brit) isolated, esp because of unpopular opinions
(transitive) a rare word for dismember
Derived Forms
limbless, adjective
Word Origin
Old English lim; related to Old Norse limr


the edge of the apparent disc of the sun, a moon, or a planet
a graduated arc attached to instruments, such as the sextant, used for measuring angles
  1. the expanded upper part of a bell-shaped corolla
  2. the expanded part of a leaf, petal, or sepal
either of the two halves of a bow
Also called fold limb. either of the sides of a geological fold
Word Origin
C15: from Latin limbus edge
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 limbless

1590s, from limb (n.1) + -less. Related: Limblessness.



"part or member," Old English lim "limb, joint, main branch of a tree," from Proto-Germanic *limu- (cf. Old Norse limr "limb," lim "small branch of a tree"), a variant of *liþu- (cf. Old English liþ, Old Frisian lith, Old Norse liðr, Gothic liþus "a limb;" and with prefix ga-, source of German Glied "limb, member"), from PIE root *lei- "to bend, be movable, be nimble." The parasitic -b began to appear late 1500s for no etymological reason (perhaps by influence of limb (n.2)). In Old and Middle English, and until lately in dialects, it could mean "any visible body part."

The lymmes of generacion were shewed manyfestly. [Caxton, "The subtyl historyes and fables of Esope, Auyan, Alfonce, and Poge," 1484]
Hence, limb-lifter "fornicator" (1570s). To go out on a limb in figurative sense "enter a risky situation" is from 1897. Life and limb in reference to the body inclusively is from c.1200.

late 14c., "edge of a quadrant or other instrument," from Latin limbus "border, hem, fringe, edge," of uncertain origin. Klein suggests cognate with Sanskrit lambate "hangs down," and English limp. But Tucker writes that "the sense appears to be that of something which twists, goes round, or binds ... not of something which hangs loose," and suggests cognates in Lithuanian linta "ribbon," Old Norse linnr "whether." Astronomical sense of "edge of the disk of a heavenly body" first attested 1670s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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limbless in Medicine

limb (lĭm)

  1. One of the paired jointed extremities of the body; an arm or a leg.

  2. A segment of such a jointed structure.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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limbless in Science
  1. One of the appendages of an animal, such as an arm of a starfish, the flipper of dolphins, or the arm and leg of a human, used for locomotion or grasping.

  2. The expanded tip of a plant organ, such as a petal or corolla lobe.

  3. The circumferential edge of the apparent disk of a celestial body.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for limbless


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with limbless
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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