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

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 Crews on Sunday evening contained a fire in Eagle River that burned through just under an acre of brush and timber, Harrel said. Tess Williams, Anchorage Daily News, 3 May 2022 Flames were chewing through a mix of grass and timber in an extremely remote area of steep terrain about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Lewiston, Idaho. Gillian Flaccus, ajc, 20 July 2021 Flames were chewing through a mix of grass and timber in an extremely remote area of steep terrain about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Lewiston, Idaho. Gillian Flaccus, Star Tribune, 19 July 2021 The Jack fire is burning in grass and timber near the community of Dry Creek along Oregon 138 and has prompted Level 3 (go now) evacuation orders. oregonlive, 6 July 2021 As of Thursday morning, the fire had scorched more than 5,700 acres of grass, brush and timber and was 0 percent contained. New York Times, 14 Apr. 2022 The Four Forest Restoration Initiative seeks to use a re-emerging timber industry to reduce fuels that in this century have fed the state’s largest-ever fires. Brandon Loomis, The Arizona Republic, 28 Feb. 2022 The timber industry casts a long shadow in Mendocino County. Los Angeles Times, 19 Feb. 2022 Kamikatsu had a thriving timber industry until the 1970s, when competition from cheap overseas lumber put the industry in decline. Rebecca Cairns, CNN, 25 Jan. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Unlike the previous government, the Taliban have not supplied engineers to monitor toxic gas, or timber to support tunnels that stretch for hundreds of yards. New York Times, 29 Mar. 2022 Since then, the groups have overseen restoration work and timber harvesting there with the goal of building trails that would tie into an in-progress network at the neighboring Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument to the south. Gregory Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle, 9 Mar. 2022 Will timber harvested from lands under Conservation Fund care be milled in the region? oregonlive, 25 Nov. 2021 When Russia faced sanctions following the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014, Mr. Putin turned to China to soften the blow, stepping up trade across the border from energy to timber. New York Times, 15 Dec. 2021 Decades later, portions with same-age trees would be harvested at once — essentially clear-cut, a major shift away from their efforts to steward timber to more closely resemble natural forest ecosystems. Julie Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, 28 Nov. 2021 Court documents show the plaintiffs requested relief in excess of $75,000 plus legal costs, interest and damages due to negligence, negligent misrepresentation, trespass, unjust destruction of property, and wrongful injuries to timber. Wulf James-roby, USA TODAY, 1 Oct. 2021 Since Friday, the fire has destroyed 22 summer cottages, 18 of them in Pine valley, swept bare nearly 5000 acres of brush and timber land and caused damage estimated at more than $100,000. San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 Sep. 2021 One of those fires, the Cottonwood Creek fire, is now burning 75 acres of grass, brush and timber about 5 miles south of Fossil, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry. oregonlive, 30 July 2021 See More

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.

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

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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Dictionary Entries Near timber



timber and room

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Statistics for timber

Last Updated

9 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Timber.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/timber. Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for timber


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

More from Merriam-Webster on timber

Nglish: Translation of timber for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of timber for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about timber


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