adjective Navigation.

  1. (of a vessel) required to yield to a vessel having the right of way.Compare privileged(def 5).


  1. that which is carried; load: a horse’s burden of rider and pack.
  2. that which is borne with difficulty; obligation; onus: the burden of leadership.
  3. Nautical.
    1. the weight of a ship’s cargo.
    2. the carrying capacity of a ship.
  4. Mining. overburden(def 3).
  5. Metallurgy. the minerals charged into a blast furnace or steelmaking furnace.
  6. Accounting. overhead(def 6).

verb (used with object)

  1. to load heavily.
  2. to load oppressively; trouble.


  1. something that is carried; load
  2. something that is exacting, oppressive, or difficult to bearthe burden of responsibility Related adjective: onerous
  3. nautical
    1. the cargo capacity of a ship
    2. the weight of a ship’s cargo

verb (tr)

  1. (sometimes foll by up) to put or impose a burden on; load
  2. to weigh down; oppressthe old woman was burdened with cares


  1. a line of words recurring at the end of each verse of a ballad or similar song; chorus or refrain
  2. the principal or recurrent theme of a speech, book, etc
  3. another word for bourdon

“a load,” Old English byrðen “a load, weight, charge, duty;” also “a child;” from Proto-Germanic *burthinjo- “that which is borne” (cf. Old Norse byrðr, Old Saxon burthinnia, German bürde, Gothic baurþei), from PIE root *bher- (1) “to bear, to carry; give birth” (see infer).

The shift from -th- to -d- took place beginning 12c. (cf. murder). Archaic burthen is occasionally retained for the specific sense of “capacity of a ship.” Burden of proof is recorded from 1590s.


“leading idea,” 1640s, a figurative use from earlier sense “refrain or chorus of a song,” 1590s, originally “bass accompaniment to music” (late 14c.), from Old French bordon “bumble-bee, drone,” or directly from Medieval Latin burdonom “drone, drone bass” (source of French bourdon, Spanish bordon, Portuguese bordão, Italian bordone), of echoic origin.

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