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Origin of timber

First recorded before 900; Middle English, Old English: originally, “house, building material, wood, trees”; cognate with German Zimmer “room,” Old Norse timbr “timber”; akin to Gothic timrjan “to build,” Greek démein “to build,” dómos “house,” Latin domus “house,” Slavic (Polish ) dom, “house, home,” Sanskrit dáma- “house, building”; see dome


tim·ber·less, adjectivetim·ber·y, adjective


timber , timbre
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does timber mean?

Timber refers to wood used for building materials.

Timber can be used to refer to wood at different stages of processing. Sometimes, it refers to the trees in a wooded area that will be cut for use. Other times, it means trees that have already been cut down but not yet processed into planks and other forms to build with. And other times it refers to the wood after it has been processed (a more common word for this is lumber).

Timber is most commonly used as a mass noun, meaning it is a singular noun that refers to multiple things and does not get pluralized.

Example: Those trucks are bringing freshly cut timber to the mill.

Where does timber come from?

If you cut open the word timber and count the rings inside, you’ll find that it’s a very old word—it’s been in use since at least the 900s. It comes from an Old English word that originally meant “house” or “building material.” It is related to the Old Norse word timbr (which has the same meaning) and the Greek word demein (meaning “to build”).

Timber usually refers to wood for building materials, but its specific definition varies slightly from place to place. In the United States and Canada, timber is used to describe trees that have been cut down but haven’t yet been processed into planks or boards (which are called lumber). In the United Kingdom and Australia, timber is the word used for any wood that will be used in construction.

Of course, shouting timber! is also a fun way to warn people that a tree is falling or about to fall. It has been used this way since at least the 1910s.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of timber?

  • timbery (adjective)
  • timberless (adjective)

What are some synonyms for timber?

What are some words that share a root or word element with timber


What are some words that often get used in discussing timber?

What are some words timber may be commonly confused with?

How is timber used in real life?

Timber is most commonly used in the context of forestry and logging, but its use varies depending on location. In all cases, it usually refers to wood that will be used for building material.



Try using timber!

Which of the following things can be called timber?

A. growing trees that have not been cut
B. logs that have not been processed into wood planks
C. wood planks
D. all of the above

How to use timber in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for timber

/ (ˈtɪmbə) /

(tr) to provide with timbers
a lumberjack's shouted warning when a tree is about to fall

Word Origin for timber

Old English; related to Old High German zimbar wood, Old Norse timbr timber, Latin domus house
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