Definition of burr in English:



  • 1A whirring sound, such as a telephone ringing tone or the sound of cogs turning.

    • ‘A heartbeat, a voice, and a burr of conscience I continue to gratefully hear.’
    • ‘It consists of hums and burrs and the shush of compressed air engaging and disengaging continually.’
    • ‘We made do with the pips on digital Radio 2, and the engaged burr of mobiles as the servers overflowed.’
    note, beep, bleep, meep, whine, buzz, warble, signal
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    1. 1.1 A rough pronunciation of the letter r, especially with a uvular trill as in a Northumberland accent.
      • ‘That genial smile, the fisherman's countenance, the soft burr - George Baker could only come from the West Country.’
      • ‘Clune delivers the line with a soft West Country burr and adds, ‘That's what I'm going to call my show: Boy Crazy.’’
      • ‘Northumbrian English is somewhat famous for the Northumbrian burr, a rhotic realized as a uvular fricative (or approximant).’
      • ‘The Scotch-Irish are unlikely to share speech patterns and the characteristic burr (a distinctive trilled ‘r’) with the Scots.’
      • ‘Scots may lose their regional ties in becoming New Zealanders, and the accent softens or disappears apart from the Southland burr.’
      • ‘Yes, it's the West Country burr which makes that rrrrrr sound.’
      • ‘Amongst the crowd, whether on or off horses, the old fashioned accents of the gentry were mingled with the softer burr of the yeoman farmers and the downright rusticity of the less well-off.’
      • ‘The best way I know of to learn a uvular trill, sometimes called a 'burr', is by practicing gargling.’
      pronunciation, intonation, enunciation, elocution, articulation, inflection, tone, modulation, cadence, timbre, utterance, manner of speaking, speech pattern, speech, diction, delivery
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    2. 1.2 (loosely) a regional accent.
      ‘a soft Scottish burr’
      • ‘The man spoke in a soft American burr, almost without a pause.’
      • ‘‘So sad what's happened with Scottish football,’ he mourns in his soft Fife burr.’
      • ‘Cope's accent is all over the place: part-Liverpudlian, part-American, but not much of a West Country burr and no trace of the Wales he was spirited from as a kid.’
      • ‘Victor could only laugh as Quentin's Scottish burr came out more pronounced at the end of his speech.’
      • ‘Wemyss now speaks mostly fluent English, heavily accented but with a Scottish burr breaking through when she is relaxed.’
      • ‘‘The information I have will be devastating for the Telegraph,’ he insists in his deep Scottish burr.’
      • ‘By the time she was 35, she still looked as if she was in her twenties, red-haired, slim and feisty, with a marked Scottish burr and a surfeit of sex appeal.’
      • ‘‘The walls in York are more museums,’ he says, in a soft Dublin accent that's overlaid by a Cheshire burr.’
      • ‘A keen huntsman, Briggs, immediately turned his Lancashire burr to the topic of fox hunting.’
      • ‘In comparison, my grandfather's voice was a deep, rich Irish burr that was almost unintelligible, although it was infinitely easier to understand in person that it had ever been over the phone.’
      • ‘Now, he says in his soft Scots burr, he doesn't know what sort of accent he has.’
      • ‘His Hampshire burr was synonymous with lazy summer days and the sound of leather on willow, and it is almost impossible to believe that his last commentary was the 1980 Centenary Test at Lord's.’
      • ‘His voice was soft but had a slight Scottish burr to it.’
      • ‘He's the fearless interlocutor with a Yorkshire burr; ladies and gentlemen, please welcome: Michael Parkinson!’
      • ‘He stopped in front of R., leaned down and said to her, in a thick Scots burr, ‘Happy holidays.’’
      • ‘Armed with a Scottish burr but scant design experience, his vision was to build an authentic links in America, something akin to an 1880s course, but done with modern equipment.’
      • ‘They can tell that I am from the same mould as James Bond but without the Celtic burr.’
      • ‘She says the Scottish burr just melts her away and she recalls a long-forgotten trip to Edinburgh just after the war.’
      • ‘Linguistic idiosyncrasies which had previously distinguished Stanningley-speak from a Bingley burr would be consigned to history.’
  • 2A rough edge or ridge left on an object (especially of metal) by the action of a tool or machine.

    • ‘His dad, Peter, who is a plumber, said: ‘We tried releasing the tube with soap but it had burrs on it from being cut.’’
    • ‘Use a metal file to remove any burrs and to dull the sharp cut edges.’
    • ‘Take the burrs off the cuts with a pocket knife or sandpaper or fingernail file.’
    • ‘At a minimum, sand down the area to remove any roughness or burrs, and touch it up with paint.’
    • ‘In engraving, fine lines are incised directly into the plate and the burrs removed to produce clean, sharp lines on the print.’
    • ‘I tried suggesting he tape over the burr or maybe file it down but he stubbornly insisted that it was fine, cursing under his breath the whole time he cranked the mill.’
    • ‘The threads for the bottom bracket were cut precisely with no slag or burs.’
    • ‘When done, give the wall a light sanding to knock down any burrs or ridges.’
    • ‘The rifling for the entire length of the tube must be smooth and free of burrs and scars.’
    • ‘When working with it, you will want to wear gloves and other appropriate clothing to protect yourself from sharp edges and corners, and from the slivers and burrs left from cutting.’
    • ‘It slices through any material (including six inches of titanium) without leaving any burrs, or rough edges.’
    • ‘This involved removing all the rough edges and casting burrs so there were no sharp edges.’
    • ‘The cutters can be produced with high positive rakes, which contribute to smooth surfaces and reduced burrs.’
    • ‘The company's blasting capabilities can be used to achieve specific surface roughness or to affect surface hardness of parts and in some applications reduce or remove burrs.’
    • ‘On the plastic it will enter readily and throw up a burr at the edges of the hole.’
    • ‘Sharpen only the beveled side of a blade, though you should remove burrs on the flat side.’
    • ‘When you complete the cut, file off any burrs and install it.’
    • ‘After tooling, cut off mortar tailings with trowel and brush excess mortar burrs and dust from face of brick.’
    • ‘Apparently the parachute type pin had too sharp edges or maybe a little burr.’
    • ‘The tooling includes a deburring operation in which burrs are actually pushed back into the component so that a clean edge is left on the part.’
  • 3A small rotary cutting tool with a shaped end, used chiefly in woodworking and dentistry.

    • ‘He or she then uses the shaver burr to reshape the head/neck junction to restore normal head/neck offset, which eliminates impingement.’
    • ‘To remove soil-derived particulates on the tooth surface, all enamel surfaces were abraded to a depth >100 [mu] m with acid-cleaned, tungsten carbide dental burrs.’
    • ‘Long a favourite of jewellers and metalworkers, diamond burrs are now being discovered by woodworkers, woodturners and woodcarvers.’
    • ‘Inside, the wood in the burr is winding round and round itself giving a magnificent complex surface.’
    • ‘For example, the use of dental burrs creates a fine aerosol spray that can carry bacteria, etc.’
    • ‘The assistant smooths irregular edges with a motorized burr.’
    • ‘The dissector incorporates an electrically powered handpiece and single-use, disposable cutting blades and burrs.’
    • ‘Most important, it's a burr rather than a blade grinder.’
    • ‘The burr, connected to a drive shaft and a turbine powered by compressed air, rotates at speeds up to 200 000 rpm’
    1. 3.1 A small surgical drill for making holes in bone, especially in the skull.
      • ‘The needle was slowly retracted, the burr hole left open and the skin sutured closed.’
      • ‘This can be performed with either an osteotome or a spherical motorized burr.’
      • ‘The devices named include disposable arthroscopic surgery blades and burrs, non-electric biopsy forceps, ureteral stone dislodgers, and sagittal saw blades.’
      • ‘Arthroscopic surgery is often performed to take out inflamed bursal tissue and create more room for the rotator-cuff tendons by using a burr to remove some of the underside of the acromion bone.’
      • ‘It was removed via a burr hole, and he made a full recovery.’
      • ‘The surgeon creates an internal subcutaneous area for the distal end of the DBS lead, lateral to the burr hole defect, so that it can be retrieved easily when the pulse generator is implanted.’
      • ‘The greatest opportunity for cost savings is found in reprocessing critical devices, such as diagnostic cardiac catheters, forceps, and orthopedic burrs.’
      • ‘The surgeon completes the notchplasty with a spherical motorized arthroscopic burr until the posterior edge of the femur is identified and probed.’
      • ‘The first was an emergency suturing of her scalp lacerations and insertion of an intra cranial pressure monitor through a burr hole.’
      • ‘This allows the surgeon to perform surgery through a small burr hole.’
      • ‘The surgeon uses a motorized 5-mm round burr to expose bleeding bone from the endplates of the vertebral bodies on either side of the disc space to prepare the space for the bone graft.’
      • ‘That's one group but the other group had the burr holes made in their skull but they didn't actually have the cells put in their brain.’
      • ‘Using a suction/shaver with a round or an oval-shaped burr, the surgeon resects bone along the inner aspect of the lateral femoral condyle.’
      • ‘Instruments include a sharp periosteal elevator without tip burrs and fine needle holders for 6-0 suture.’
      • ‘The surgeon makes a 6-cm incision and uses a 5.0 mm round cutting burr to drill the burr hole.’
      • ‘A further development was to use a brace and bit to ream out (as bone dust) burr holes about 1 cm in diameter.’
      • ‘This infusion is not stopped until the burr hole is drilled and the surgeon is ready to begin microelectrode recording.’
      • ‘We note that the brighter signal from the center of the tumor may be partly due to reduced attenuation of the light through the burr hole.’
  • 4mass noun A siliceous rock used for millstones.

    • ‘The best and most popular stone ever discovered for grinding wheat into white flour is the French Burr.’
    • ‘Mervin Austin mills his own flour using French burr stones and Derbyshire peak stones.’
    • ‘The urban manufacturers in Edinburgh and Glasgow usually made up their millstones from a centre-piece of indigenous rock with radial French burr segments around it.’
    • ‘The miller knows that there should be a difference in the dress for hulling stones, splitting or cracking stones, wheat stones, middlings stones and vertical burr stones.’
    1. 4.1count noun A whetstone.
      • ‘These stones became the first burrs for grist mills.’
  • 5A prickly seed case or flower head that clings to clothing and animal fur.

    • ‘There were burrs in its coat and when it rolled over on the lane, wiggling in ecstasy to have its belly rubbed, we could tell that it was a male.’
    • ‘These plants are at their maximum stage of maturity and contain little leaf material in proportion to burs and stems.’
    • ‘All right, so once you got the burrs out and started writing down, what were you able to say in your story about this wonderful event?’
    • ‘Wherever one grows up, there are local names that infiltrate our consciousness, get stuck in our memories like burrs snagged on a sock.’
    • ‘The area is a mess of dead grass, burrs and broken glass.’
    • ‘Ferns brushed her ankles and burs snagged her skirt as she stumbled along compulsively.’
    • ‘The accompaniment is an ostinato that sticks to the memory like a burr and becomes hypnotic.’
    • ‘I watch out for the grass burrs and the fire ants with studied vigilance, but after years of living in Texas and just casually surveying such wildflower patches, I'm really looking at them for the first time.’
    • ‘It produces one inch long bur-like fruits with a single seed in each bur.’
    • ‘Memories are made of this; they cling to objects and places like burrs to a sleeve.’
    • ‘His clothes were smudged with grass and mud, his hands covered in small burr scratches and dirt.’
    • ‘Good-looking and backed by a healthy trust fund, he buzzes around from store to store, hot spot to hot spot, picking up women like burrs.’
    • ‘Trees of these varieties produce only a single, large nut in each burr (nut-case) instead of several small ones.’
    • ‘According to National Park Service biologists, the burrs act like Velcro.’
    • ‘He worked to make a synthetic material that duplicated the burs clinging to his wool socks.’
    • ‘He had a bunch of burrs in his mane, but I left them alone.’
    • ‘The plant must be eliminated before the flowers ripen and form the brown prickly burrs which spread the seeds.’
    • ‘We always get through these rough patches, but let's face it, no one ever likes sitting in a patch of grass burrs at the time no matter how funny the story may be later.’
    • ‘She shook the twigs, burs, and dead leaves off of her skirt, and smoothed her bodice.’
    • ‘We have to chance getting stickers in our tongue, if we want to get the burrs out of our feet.’
    1. 5.1usually as modifier A plant that produces burrs, for example bur reed.
      • ‘Flora and fauna are often named after established and now familiar places: Bathurst burr, Burdekin duck, Moreton Bay fig, Murray cod, and Swan River mahogany.’
      • ‘He did general farm work fencing and grubbing bathhurst burr.’
      • ‘When we got here the nettles and sticky burrs had grown very high.’
      • ‘On show in the gallery is a striking coffee table fashioned from an elm burr found in a Tipperary wood.’
      • ‘With droughts, rust, rabbits, Bathurst burr, locusts, low wheat and wool prices and a depression his parents had to struggle to provide for their large family.’
      • ‘Spot the walnut tree, toss the multi-hooked seed heads of the burr plants, help these path dwellers hitch a fleecy ride.’
  • 6as modifier Denoting wood containing knots or other growths which show a pattern of dense swirls in the grain when sawn, used for veneers and other decorative woodwork.

    ‘burr walnut’
    • ‘Working on a rosewood corner cupboard veneered in burr walnut, and featuring an inlaid marquetry honeysuckle design, will always remain one of Luke's favourite jobs.’
    • ‘Mostly here it is pines but there were some maples and the understory verge was thistle and burr shoulder to shoulder with thistle-like knapweed.’
    • ‘For the work-minded bosses, there are burr walnut-finished business trays that fold down from the front seat-backs and are big enough to hold a notebook computer.’
    • ‘On these cars, this comes in the form of customised alloy wheels and special paint ranges, as well a host of specification upgrades, including Java leather, burr walnut or maple wood trims.’
    • ‘As life decisions go, it's a lot tougher than choosing between the traditional burr walnut and the gray-stained maple veneer for the interior of his Jaguar.’
    • ‘The elegantly crafted table is constructed in English walnut with inlays of burr elm and satinwood stringing.’
    • ‘While he prefers to work with solid woods such as native oak, cherry, walnut and cedar, he also frequently uses some speciality veneers and inlays including masur birch, bird's eye maple and oak burr.’
    • ‘I have nine pieces in the exhibition - a new body of work in Scottish hardwoods including ash and burr elm.’
    • ‘The pieces should be sturdy, worm-free and consider just how will you clean up the mess if you send a slop of beef gravy down that gorgeous burr walnut façade?’
    • ‘The interior is elegantly styled with three circular displays of crisp, clear graphics and broad burr walnut moulding.’
    • ‘Made out of a combination of European burr walnut, India rosewood and ripple sycamore, it took more than 200 hours of production manager Tim Smith's time to create.’
  • 7The coronet of a deer's antler.

    • ‘To make a comb the craftsman first cut off the tines or points and the burr (the swelling where the antler joined the skull) leaving just the beam (main part of the antler).’
    • ‘I signed this piece by carving my initials and 07 on the back of the burr.’
    • ‘This tie is done on a prairie find sun-bleached mule deer shed antler burr. I augmented the color of the burr with my own dye technique.’


  • 1no object Make a whirring sound.

    • ‘First one brightly colored lorikeet burred past Zack's head, then another and another, until at least nine or ten birds were perched on the rail above the zookeeper's head.’
    • ‘I hear the burring snarl of a big bike cranking up, and if the rider emerges at just the right angle, one of the wheels might break my neck.’
    • ‘The electric bell burred softly again through the house, and the man heard it, and his eyes rested enquiringly on the door of the library.’
    • ‘If a contraption doesn't beep or burr when he switches it on, it's just too demeaning for him even to contemplate.’
    • ‘At this point, I make a burring noise and replace the receiver.’
    • ‘White gouts of water kicked up and a few pellets skipped by with burring whines.’
    • ‘He stood straight up, peered at some clouds, and made a long wailing call, rounded off by some burring notes.’
    1. 1.1 Speak with a regional accent, especially one in which the letter r is prominent.
      • ‘I felt the mattress shift and her low voice burred almost in my ear.’
      • ‘‘Gran… ‘Wayne burred warningly, to which Grandma Eva responded with a look of disbelief.’
      • ‘"Ye're loaded, are ye, Parcy?" asked the genial host in the burring Northumbrian voice we know so well even to-day.’
      • ‘‘There's nothing finer in this country,’ he burred.’
      • ‘They started the singing of their hymns, Newlands burring away in his boots and MacDougall slicing the words like cheese.’
      • ‘The Scots people are much nicer - proud, a little cold perhaps - but they were charming, with their lovely soft burring voices.’
  • 2with object Form a rough edge on (metal).

    • ‘I hit my first snag when I managed to burr one of the screws, which made it impossible to remove the arm at all!’
    • ‘If you use a 24-tooth blade, which is what is needed for thin metal, there will be very little burring of the edge.’


  • a burr under someone's saddle

    • informal A persistent source of irritation.

      • ‘Frankly I think the Empress was just being cranky but it irritated me all the same and the incident was still a burr under my saddle today.’
      • ‘Ron Sider has been a burr in the ethical saddle of the evangelical world for decades.’
      • ‘Though it would be difficult for Earnhardt to admit, Gordon was the burr in his saddle.’
      • ‘I am moved to write you about a book review in your last issue and a closely related subject that has long been a burr under my saddle.’
      • ‘‘He has a burr under his saddle,’ I said and the boy turned around, startled.’


Middle English (in burr (sense 5 of the noun)): probably of Scandinavian origin and related to Danish burre ‘burr, burdock’, Swedish kard-borre ‘burdock’.