tim·​ber | \ ˈtim-bər How to pronounce timber (audio) \

Definition of timber

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : growing trees or their wood
b used interjectionally to warn of a falling tree
2 : wood suitable for building or for carpentry
3a : a large squared or dressed piece of wood ready for use or forming part of a structure
b British : lumber sense 2a
c : a curving frame branching outward from the keel of a ship and bending upward in a vertical direction that is usually composed of several pieces united : rib
4 : material, stuff especially : a person or type of person qualified for a particular position or status managerial timber


timbered; timbering\ ˈtim-​b(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce timber (audio) \

Definition of timber (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to frame, cover, or support with timbers

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Other Words from timber


timber adjective

Timber and Timbre

Timber and timbre are two similar-looking words that appear in very different contexts. At least most of the time.

Timber traces back to an Old English word initially meaning “house” or “building” that also came to mean “building material,” “wood,” and “trees” or “woods.” Timbers are large squared lengths of wood used for building a house or a boat. In British English, timber is also used as a synonym for lumber.

Metaphorical senses followed after centuries of the word’s use: the word used for building material became a word meaning “material” or “stuff” in general (“it’s best-seller timber”) and came also to refer to the qualities of character, experience, or intellect (“managerial timber”).

And, of course, there’s also the interjectional use of “timber!” as a cry to warn of a falling tree; the fact that most people know this despite few of them ever having deployed the word in such a situation is almost certainly due to cartoons.

Timbre is French in origin, which is apparent in its pronunciation: it is often pronounced \TAM-ber\ and, with a more French-influenced second syllable, \TAM-bruh\. The French ancestor of timbre was borrowed at three different times into English, each time with a different meaning, each time reflecting the evolution that the word had made in French.

The first two meanings timbre had in English (it referred to a kind of drum and to the crest on a coat of arms) are now too obscure for entry in this dictionary, but its third meaning survives. Timbre in modern English generally refers to the quality of a sound made by a particular voice or musical instrument; timbre is useful in being distinct from pitch, intensity, and loudness as a descriptor of sound.

But because English is rarely simple about such things, we have also these facts: timber is listed as a variant spelling of timbre. And timbre may also be correctly pronounced just like timber as \TIM-ber\. And the spelling of timber was unsettled for many years; it was sometimes spelled tymmer, tymber, and, yes, timbre. The messy overlapping of these similar words is coincidental: the consequence of the intersection of the different cultures and languages that left their traces on English.

Examples of timber in a Sentence

Noun upon our approach the deer disappeared back into the timber from whence it had come needed a new load of timber to finish building the house
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The timber peace process began in 2003 at a bitter meeting over forest policy. Arkansas Online, "Finding common ground," 11 Apr. 2021 Mateo, Kim, pitching staff show ups-and-downs of roster gaining experience On Wednesday against the Giants, the Padres trotted out reminders that their current house is built of maturing timber. Bryce Miller Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Padres maturing depth stumbles, shines in loss to Giants," 7 Apr. 2021 Designed by Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture of Chicago, Intro isn’t the only mass timber project underway in Cleveland. Steven Litt, cleveland, "Developers of Intro apartment project in Ohio City sing virtues of mass timber construction," 5 Apr. 2021 In recent years, a new DNR management scheme has been implemented that in some cases places wildlife benefits secondary to Whitewater Wildlife Management Area's timber production. Star Tribune, "Aggressive logging in Minnesota bluff country threatens wildlife," 3 Apr. 2021 The fire was reportedly burning in areas with heavy dead and downed timber. Alison Fox, Travel + Leisure, "Mount Rushmore Closes As Firefighters Battle South Dakota Wildfires," 30 Mar. 2021 The fires are burning timber with very high potential for spread due to elevated winds, according to the Rapid City Journal. Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY, "'Active and dangerous scene': Mount Rushmore closed, 400 homes evacuated as multiple wildfires spread in South Dakota," 29 Mar. 2021 In 1902, before the system of lookout towers was established, a woman named Mable Gray, who was a cook at a timber cruising camp in northern Idaho, was asked by her boss to climb a ladder, sit 15 feet up in a fir tree, and look for smoke. Dina Gachman, Smithsonian Magazine, "The History of Lady Lookouts," 29 Mar. 2021 On one hand supply has fallen as a result of COVID-19 restrictions hampering sawmills, while quarantining Americans pursuing home renovations or do-it-yourself projects increase the demand for timber. Fortune, "Lumber prices are up a staggering 188%—when will the wood shortage end?," 20 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Since Cole and Tangen have retired, however, a new DNR management scheme has been implemented that in some cases places wildlife benefits secondary on WMAs to timber production. Star Tribune, "Aggressive logging in Minnesota bluff country threatens wildlife," 3 Apr. 2021 When not in use, this foyer can transform into a 400-seat concert venue for musical performances and galas, thanks to timber stadium seating. Bebe Howorth, ELLE Decor, "Rhythm Infuses the Design of This New Nashville Museum," 30 Mar. 2021 Even timber companies that have been largely untouched by wildfires are paying for the risk. Alice Uribe, WSJ, "Wildfires Leave Forestry Companies Struggling for Insurance," 26 Feb. 2021 The United States Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture is now under the direction of John B. Crowell, a logging company attorney, and the emphasis has shifted from multiple use and sustained yield to timber production first and last. Ted Trueblood, Field & Stream, "F&S Classics: The Biggest Ripoff," 29 Nov. 2020 Last week, news broke that the Trump administration has exempted the Tongass National Forest in Alaska from the 2001 Roadless Rule, a regulation prohibiting road construction and timber harvesting in roadless areas. Amy Gulick, The New Republic, "The Majestic Alaskan Rain Forest in Trump’s Crosshairs," 5 Nov. 2020 An array of cacti, agave and timber bamboo touches up the private backyard, which adds a swimming pool, spa and fire pit with a fountain. Jack Flemming, Los Angeles Times, "Actress Kathleen Robertson lists original Hollywoodland model home," 30 Oct. 2020 The board took public testimony from conservation groups, loggers timber companies and counties that receive harvest revenues among others. oregonlive, "Forestry board moves ahead with controversial habitat conservation plan for state forests," 8 Oct. 2020 This funding may come from state grants, foundation grants and loans, timber revenue or local agency contributions. Popular Science, "Healthy forests do more than just prevent wildfires," 19 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'timber.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of timber


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for timber


Middle English, from Old English, building, wood; akin to Old High German zimbar wood, room, Greek demein to build, domos course of stones or bricks

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Learn More about timber

Time Traveler for timber

Time Traveler

The first known use of timber was before the 12th century

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Statistics for timber

Last Updated

15 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Timber.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/timber. Accessed 18 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for timber



English Language Learners Definition of timber

: trees that are grown in order to produce wood
used as an interjection to warn people nearby that a cut tree is about to fall
: a large piece of wood that is used to form a part of a building


tim·​ber | \ ˈtim-bər How to pronounce timber (audio) \

Kids Definition of timber

1 : wood suitable for building or for carpentry
2 : a large squared piece of wood ready for use or forming part of a structure

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Comments on timber

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