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 limb

before 900; Middle English, Old English lim; akin to Old Norse lim foliage, limr limb, līmi rod, Latin līmus aslant, līmen threshold
Related formslimb·less, adjective
Can be confusedlimb limn

Synonyms for limb

Synonym study

2. See branch.




Astronomy. the edge of the disk of the sun, a moon, or a planet.
the graduated edge of a quadrant or similar instrument.
  1. the upper spreading part of a gamopetalous corolla.
  2. the expanded portion of a petal, sepal, or leaf.

Origin of limb

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin limbus; see limbus2, limbo1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for limb

Contemporary Examples of limb

Historical Examples of limb

  • It was as if Martin, himself, were being torn limb from limb.


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • They were leisurely enough for Mr Verloc to recognise the limb and the weapon.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • If wrong had chanced to her, I would have rent you where you stand, limb from limb.

    Night and Morning, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • Yet if I had caught him again I would have strung him up to the first limb.

    The Cavalier

    George Washington Cable

  • Failing in that, it generally shears off a limb before it sheers away.

British Dictionary definitions for limb




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 British 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. Britishisolated, esp because of unpopular opinions


(tr) a rare word for dismember
Derived Formslimbless, adjective

Word Origin for limb

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 for limb

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

Word Origin and History for limb

"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

limb in Medicine




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

limb in Science



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.
The expanded tip of a plant organ, such as a petal or corolla lobe.
The circumferential edge of the apparent disk of a celestial body.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with limb


see out on a limb; risk life and limb.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.