Simple Definition of encumber
: to make (someone or something) hold or carry something heavy
: to cause problems or difficulties for (someone or something)
Full Definition of encumber
Examples of encumber in a sentence
These rules will only encumber the people we're trying to help.
Lack of funding has encumbered the project.
Did You Know?
In Old French, the noun "combre" meant a defensive obstacle formed by felled trees with sharpened branches facing the enemy. Later, in Middle French, "combre" referred to a barrier, similar to a dam or weir, constructed in the bed of a river to hold back fish or protect the banks. That notion of holding back is what informs our verb "encumber," formed by combining en- and combre. One can be physically encumbered (as by a heavy load or severe weather), or figuratively (as by bureaucratic restrictions). "Combre" also gives us the adjectives "cumbersome" and "cumbrous," both meaning "awkward or difficult to handle."
Origin of encumber
Middle English encombren, from Anglo-French encumbrer, from en- + Middle French combre dam, weir
First Known Use: 14th century
ENCUMBER Defined for Kids
Legal Definition of encumber
: to burden with a claim (as a mortgage or lien) <encumbered the land with a mineral lease>
Variants of encumber
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up encumber? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).