Definition of encumber
- negotiations encumbered by a lack of trust
- encumber an estate
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These rules will only encumber the people we're trying to help.
Lack of funding has encumbered the project.
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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."
cramp one's style, give a hard time;
: to make (someone or something) hold or carry something heavy
: to cause problems or difficulties for (someone or something)
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