1 : weigh down, burden
2 : to impede or hamper the function or activity of : hinder
3 : to burden with a legal claim (as a mortgage)
Lack of funding has encumbered the project from day one.
"Rain will likely encumber racers as they move through Grand Rapids this weekend, and possibly snow and frigid temperatures, according to forecasts." - From an article by Laura Misjak in Lansing State Journal (Michigan), April 5, 2013
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."
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
What synonym of "encumber" rhymes with "squabble"? The answer is …