Printable Version
Pronunciation: lêm-bêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To move in a clumsy, awkward, or blundering manner as if heavy. 2. (British) To burden with an undesirable task or circumstance, to saddle (with).

Notes: The verb seems accidentally related semantically to the noun lumber. However, these two words have had so many meanings, we may find matches. Someone who is lumbersome may be called a lumberer, but this word may also be used to refer to someone in the lumber trade. Lumbersexual is a 21st century word referring to a man projecting the image of a rugged, outdoor individual.

In Play: Heavy people (and other movable things) are most likely to lumber: "When he saw the muscle-bound bouncer lumbering toward him, Hazelwood decided to stop pestering the girl sitting next to him at the bar." If you are in the UK, you may say things like this and expect to be understood: "The American people are lumbered with so much misinformation and disinformation, they have difficulty making intelligent decisions."

Word History: Today's Good Word is cousin to Swedish loma (lomma) "walk awkwardly with slow, heavy steps" and Old Norse lami "lame". Surely, English lame came from this as did German lahm "lame". All of these words descended from PIE lem-/lom- "to break; fragile", also the source of Russian lomat' "to break", Serbian lomiti "to break", and Bulgarian lomya "I break". "Broken" figuratively implies "lame" in a person, and "limping" could be interpreted as "lumbering". "Broken" also implies "used, useless", implied in the second sense of the verb lumber. Until the 19th century, lumber also meant "to pawn" or "to imprison". This could explain the British sense mentioned above. Giving someone something useless could be seen as saddling them with it. (Today's gratitude is owed Barbara Beeton, who climbed the ladder rather quickly to rank of Lexiterian in the Agora, for seeing the interest in this ostensibly common Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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