timber

noun
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

timber

verb
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

Noun

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 agency was supposed to wring the maximum amount of timber from the land. Kiliii Yüyan, History & Culture, "‘There’s good fire and bad fire.’ An Indigenous practice may be key to preventing wildfires," 17 Dec. 2020 The treestand is situated inside a strip of timber along the edge of his neighbor’s bean field. Outdoor Life, "Cracking the Mystery Behind Missouri’s Year of the Giant Buck," 15 Dec. 2020 Elk hang out at high altitudes, in crags and gullies and dark folds of timber, in steep and slippery places where humans fumble around at a disadvantage. Susan Casey, Field & Stream, "F&S Classics: An Improbable Elk Hunt," 6 Dec. 2020 But her formal appointment never happened as the timber industry applied pressure to keep her out of the job, and she was replaced by the Wadena County attorney. Curt Brown, Star Tribune, "Mary Gibbs stared down lumbermen in 1903 Itasca clash," 5 Dec. 2020 On an August morning in 1963, Helen Lunt of the Ipswich Historical Society stood in front of the timber frame house at 16 Elm St. in the Massachusetts seaside town. John Kelly, Washington Post, "This might be Washington’s oldest house, but it came from New England," 28 Nov. 2020 In the intervening decades, the forest has grown up and reclaimed much of the land, so that few remnants of the old timber industry and its attendant camps and roads remain. Jessica Mckenzie, National Geographic, "Crowded peaks? Not on this little-known trail in the Adirondacks," 16 Nov. 2020 The centerpiece of the property is a 4,365-square-foot, four-bedroom timber frame house built in 2002. Norman Vanamee, Town & Country, "See Inside the New Hampshire Home Where Ghislaine Maxwell Was Arrested," 8 July 2020 The very large house in Mason has a stunning timber-frame interior. Judy Rose, Detroit Free Press, "Mix of woods and glass give inhabitants of $3.45M log home soaring views of nature," 27 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 For years, the institute has helped timber executives who worried about the threat that new drinking water protections would pose to their ability to log. The Cutting, ProPublica, "What Happened When a Public Institute Became a De Facto Lobbying Arm of the Timber Industry," 7 Aug. 2020 For years, the institute has helped timber executives who worried about the threat that new drinking water protections would pose to their ability to log. The Cutting, ProPublica, "What Happened When a Public Institute Became a De Facto Lobbying Arm of the Timber Industry," 7 Aug. 2020 For years, the institute has helped timber executives who worried about the threat that new drinking water protections would pose to their ability to log. The Cutting, ProPublica, "What Happened When a Public Institute Became a De Facto Lobbying Arm of the Timber Industry," 7 Aug. 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

Noun

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

Verb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for timber

Noun

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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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

9 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Timber.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/timber. Accessed 19 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for timber

timber

noun
How to pronounce timber (audio)

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

timber

noun
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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