[en-kuhm-bruh ns]
See more synonyms for encumbrance on Thesaurus.com
  1. something that encumbers; something burdensome, useless, or superfluous; burden; hindrance: Poverty was a lifelong encumbrance.
  2. a dependent person, especially a child.
  3. Law. a burden or claim on property, as a mortgage.

Origin of encumbrance

1275–1325; Middle English encombraunce < Middle French encumbrance. See encumber, -ance
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for encumbrance

Contemporary Examples of encumbrance

Historical Examples of encumbrance

  • To Mrs. Beaufort a rival, to Mr. Beaufort an encumbrance on the property.

    Night and Morning, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • The line between an encumbrance and a purpose is not very clearly defined, is it?

    Roden's Corner

    Henry Seton Merriman

  • The safest plan is to ascend them without too heavy an encumbrance of theories.

    Mountain Meditations

    L. Lind-af-Hageby

  • I will take upon myself the convincing of the encumbrance to that effect.

    Cap'n Warren's Wards

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • They are often an embarrassment and an encumbrance to it rather than a help.

    English Past and Present

    Richard Chevenix Trench

British Dictionary definitions for encumbrance



  1. a thing that impedes or is burdensome; hindrance
  2. law a burden or charge upon property, such as a mortgage or lien
  3. rare a dependent person, esp a child
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 encumbrance

early 14c., from Old French encombrance, from encombrer (see encumber).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper