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 formsen·cum·ber·ing·ly, adverbun·en·cum·bered, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for encumbering

Contemporary Examples of encumbering

Historical Examples of encumbering

  • She assisted the strong hands to rip away her encumbering skirts.

  • All non-combatants and refugees should go to the rear and be discouraged from encumbering us.

  • He was as impatient to assail his task and beat off the encumbering weight.

  • I have purposely abstained from encumbering my narrative with legal details.

    The Dead Alive

    Wilkie Collins

  • I stripped to my shirt, delighted to be freed of the encumbering garments.

    A Volunteer with Pike

    Robert Ames Bennet

British Dictionary definitions for encumbering



verb (tr)

to hinder or impede; make difficult; hamperencumbered 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 Formsencumberingly or incumberingly, adverb

Word Origin for encumber

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

Word Origin and History for encumbering



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