verb (used with object)

to hold back; hinder; impede: A steady rain hampered the progress of the work.
to interfere with; curtail: The dancers' movements were hampered by their elaborate costumes.


Nautical. gear that, although necessary to the operations of a vessel, is sometimes in the way.

Origin of hamper

1300–50; Middle English hampren; akin to Old English hamm “enclosure,” hemm hem1
Related formsham·pered·ly, adverbham·pered·ness, nounham·per·er, nounun·ham·pered, adjectiveun·ham·per·ing, adjective

Synonyms for hamper

Synonym study

1. See prevent.

Antonyms for hamper




a large basket or wickerwork receptacle, usually with a cover: picnic hamper; clothes hamper.
British. such a basket together with its contents, especially food.

Origin of hamper

1350–1400; Middle English hampere, variant of hanypere hanaper
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for hamper

Contemporary Examples of hamper

Historical Examples of hamper

  • I believe our children, if we do not hamper them, will never know the struggle we have had.

    The Meaning of Evolution

    Samuel Christian Schmucker

  • Public sympathy has enabled it to hamper me in this fashion.

    The Snare

    Rafael Sabatini

  • She would help the politician, while another might hamper the man.'

    Lord Kilgobbin

    Charles Lever

  • That is because the heart is not allowed to hamper the head.

    The Bondwoman

    Marah Ellis Ryan

  • A new book of Meredith's comes to me like a hamper of noble wines.

    My Contemporaries In Fiction

    David Christie Murray

British Dictionary definitions for hamper




(tr) to prevent the progress or free movement of


nautical gear aboard a vessel that, though essential, is often in the way
Derived Formshamperedness, nounhamperer, noun

Word Origin for hamper

C14: of obscure origin; perhaps related to Old English hamm enclosure, hemm hem 1




a large basket, usually with a cover
British such a basket and its contents, usually food
US a laundry basket

Word Origin for hamper

C14: variant of hanaper
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 hamper

late 14c., hampren "to surround, imprison, confine," also "to pack in a container," of unknown origin, possibly from hamper (n.1), or somehow connected to Middle English hamelian "to maim." Related: Hampered; hampering.


"large basket," early 14c., contraction of Anglo-French hanaper (Anglo-Latin hanepario), from Old French hanepier "case for holding a large goblet or cup;" in medical use "skull," also "helmet; armored leather cap," from hanap "goblet," from Frankish or some other Germanic source (cf. Old Saxon hnapp "cup, bowl;" Old High German hnapf, German Napf, Old English hnæpp). The word also meant (15c.) "the department of Chancery into which fees were paid for sealing and enrolling charters, etc." The first -a- may be a French attempt to render Germanic hn- into an acceptable Romanic form.


1835, "things important for a ship but in the way at certain times" (Klein's definition), from French hamper "to impede." Hence top hamper, originally "upper masts, spars, rigging, etc. of a sailing ship."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper