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 formscum·ber·er, nouncum·ber·ment, nouno·ver·cum·ber, verb (used with object)un·cum·bered, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cumber

Historical Examples of cumber

  • Why should I cumber myself with regrets that the receiver is not capacious?

    Essays, First Series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

    St. Martin's Summer

    Rafael Sabatini

  • God had at any rate decreed that this man should not cumber it as a drone.

    The Romany Rye

    George Borrow

  • You don't imagine of what service Lord Cumber and I could be of to you.

  • God had, at any rate, decreed that this man should not cumber it as a drone.

    The Romany Rye

    George Borrow

British Dictionary definitions for cumber


verb (tr)

to obstruct or hinder
obsolete to inconvenience


a hindrance or burden
Derived Formscumberer, noun

Word Origin for cumber

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

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