Definition of encumber
encumber was our Word of the Day on 06/03/2013. Hear the podcast!
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.
Recent Examples of encumber from the Web
The film’s earnest message of acceptance is encumbered by stylistic choices, like a disruptive voice-over and clumsy split-screen montages contrasting the boys’ vastly different social experiences.
Slowly, desparatly slowly, the remains of passage debris that encumbered the lower part of the doorway was removed.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'encumber'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
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 and Etymology of encumber
Middle English encombren, from Anglo-French encumbrer, from en- + Middle French combre dam, weir
First Known Use: 14th century
ENCUMBER Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of encumber for English Language Learners
: to make (someone or something) hold or carry something heavy
: to cause problems or difficulties for (someone or something)
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
Seen and Heard
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