Definition of burden in US English:



  • 1A load, typically a heavy one.

    • ‘Old hags being bent double, with heavy burdens attached at either end of long poles slung over a shoulder.’
    • ‘My shoulders have been so wore with carrying burdens that the skin has come off them and grew full of boils.’
    • ‘Mike grunts from the burden of Tristan's dead weight.’
    • ‘The trees look ready to have the burden of snow, and whether they want to deal with this burden or not, it's coming.’
    • ‘And laying my heavy burden in the safe hands of the luggage compartment I went to my seat and was given rest.’
    • ‘Just out of school, and freed from the confines of the uniform and the burden of the heavy schoolbag, life seems to stretch endlessly ahead.’
    load, cargo, freight, weight
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    1. 1.1 A duty or misfortune that causes hardship, anxiety, or grief; a nuisance.
      ‘the burden of long-term illness’
      • ‘That was a huge burden of stress, worry, and cost for the small business that I worked for.’
      • ‘The Treasury also claims that it is difficult to measure the burden of indirect taxes on different types of households, adding that no reliable figures are available!’
      • ‘He did not simply confess their sin - he felt its burden with deep distress.’
      • ‘Most doctors, though, loaded with heavy clinical burdens, seldom have the time for such reviews.’
      • ‘It was a combat tour during another war, one that saw our nation's best and bravest assume the burden of selfless duty to God, and liberty, and country.’
      • ‘As the caretakers of this Earth, our people have been charged with a heavy burden.’
      • ‘As president, Susilo bears a heavy burden, charged as he is with protecting his people, as he tries to make Indonesia more attractive to foreign investors.’
      • ‘Accommodation charges are deemed to be the heaviest burden on students finances, and are most often cited as a major factor in choice of university.’
      • ‘The burden of his guilt was heavier than the burden of his shame.’
      • ‘One way or another, it is the rare dollar of corporate profits that bears a tax burden heavier than the burden on an employee's wages.’
      • ‘In line with EU requirements however, the Cabinet will continue to expand the burden of excise duties on alcohol and cigarettes, and possibly fuels too.’
      • ‘They offer us a shoulder to cry on and place a comforting arm around our shoulders to lighten the burden of sorrow and misfortune.’
      • ‘This time, however, he's charged with a heavier burden as the deputy prime minister in charge of the national economy.’
      • ‘Home affordability for those unfortunates who aren't on the ladder must be an absolute disaster given the tax burden and low wages.’
      • ‘Probably, at least in the years immediately ahead, the bulk of his physique will be less of a worry than the burden of celebrity he will have to carry.’
      • ‘Women in both urban and rural areas carry the burden of domestic duties and child care in addition to working outside the home.’
      • ‘Irksome burdens lighten and niggling worries vanish, when friends rally round to help us see life in its true perspective.’
      • ‘By paying the taxes, you will one day inherit the home without the burden of the tax liability.’
      • ‘Expectation can be a heavy burden to carry - but the weight of no expectation is greater still.’
      • ‘And whichever names you dress it up with or rationales used to justify it, it's a fancy way to describe putting more of the tax burden on middle income earners.’
      responsibility, onus, charge, duty, obligation, liability
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    2. 1.2 The main responsibility for achieving a specified aim or task.
      ‘the burden of establishing that the cost was unreasonable’
      • ‘They both raise the issue of whether the burden should shift to the defendant and if so to what standard.’
      • ‘Indeed, older women bear the main burden of the search for firewood, as areas outside the camps are not safe for younger women and girls, who become the targets of the Janjaweed militias.’
      • ‘But the burden for achieving national unity is on a president who could manage a narrow victory only by savagely trashing his opponent.’
      • ‘She labored under the arduous burden of trying to achieve clarity at a time when the government places an understandably high premium on secrecy.’
      • ‘Many very poor countries today shoulder the main burden of sheltering the millions who flee war, persecution, environmental devastation and hunger.’
      • ‘Should the burden of responsibility for public safety be shoved on to a single developer?’
      • ‘Since Nasser's Suez grab the Egyptian frontier has been relatively quiet; the main burden of daily harassment has passed to Jordan.’
      • ‘Especially in cases of free speech, shouldn't the burden be on the plaintiff to prove infringement?’
      • ‘The Tories, most likely to have the main burden of opposition, look at least as unprepared for that responsibility as they appear to be for taking over government.’
      • ‘If, as the polls tell us, a Labour-led administration is going to be returned at Holyrood then a burden of responsibility falls on Jack McConnell over the next short period.’
      • ‘Significantly, the burden of proving innocence is reversed, because it is presumed until the contrary is shown that the defendant did not have the relevant knowledge.’
      • ‘The burden of proving that the ship was not seaworthy and that unseaworthiness caused or contributed to the loss or damage complained of, lies on the defendants.’
      • ‘In this situation, the burden of convening a meeting falls on the shareholders.’
      • ‘Would the proposal be that you will carry the burden in the first instance of the argument against the Minister in those two appeals?’
      • ‘The common belief that the British were obliged to shoulder the main burden of World War I is a historical travesty.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, the burden of this task - of displaying to the world such terrifying conditions - proves too much for the film.’
      • ‘But now the burden is on the sceptic to formulate an argument that does not depend on the doctrine.’
      • ‘With the expansion of the Union's tasks, the burden of adjustment has grown for each successive wave of accession.’
      • ‘The Court of Appeal in Wilson was surely right to declare that the burden of finding strong arguments should lie on those who wish to criminalize consensual conduct, not on those who wish it to be lawful.’
      job, duty, chore, charge, labour, piece of work, piece of business, assignment, function, commission, mission, engagement, occupation, undertaking, exercise, business, responsibility, errand, detail, endeavour, enterprise, venture, quest, problem
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    3. 1.3 A ship's carrying capacity; tonnage.
      ‘the schooner Wyoming, of about 6,000 tons burden’
      • ‘Each of these vessels was fourteen tons burden and plied the same route as those owned by Barlow.’
      • ‘The one enjoyed by certain French ports over colonial trade was virtually abandoned when all ports capable of accommodating ships of 100 tons' burden were included in the list.’
      • ‘They were as large as any wooden ships ever built, as much as two thousand tons burden; a French king had a tennis court installed in one.’
  • 2the burdenThe main theme or gist of a speech, book, or argument.

    ‘the burden of his views’
    • ‘It is the burden of Spirited Lives to tell that story with a focus on one religious community, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondolet.’
    • ‘This is the burden of Francis Schaeffer's books, such as Death in the City, Whatever happened to the Human Race and Escape from Reason.’
    • ‘The problem is that when those amendments come fast and late, it is difficult for the officials to immediately recognise the burden of the argument and the strength of the propositions.’
    • ‘Sylvian embodies an energetic, hybridized spirituality, and the burden of this essay is to track and note some of the major signposts on his ongoing pilgrimage.’
    • ‘The main burden of Hobsbawm's treatment of these years is political.’
    • ‘It is the burden of Steven Payne's enormously fascinating book to answer that question.’
    • ‘This brings us to Robin Mathews, the burden of my song.’
    • ‘But the entire burden of my learned friend's song was to the effect that what happened in this case was a more or less clear case of negligence, because of foreseeability.’
    • ‘This is the Private Language Argument, the burden of which is that there can be no such thing as a language invented by and intelligible to a single individual only.’
    • ‘Now, as I understood the burden of your argument, it was that there was no valuable consideration, not that there was no purchaser.’
    • ‘The main burden of this chapter is to argue against strict compositionality and for partial compositionality.’
    • ‘These issues are precisely the burden of many complaints now being raised under the rubric of environmental justice and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.’
    • ‘This was an intolerable assault, ran the burden of their complaint, on ‘freedom of speech’.’
    • ‘This effort is the burden of his most substantive work to date, Theology and Social Theory.’
    • ‘Mr Lynagh for Mr Unwin carried the burden of the argument here.’
    • ‘Part of acknowledging our inadequacies and sinfulness is to admit when you are doing a lousy job speaking the truth, which is the main burden of the Cdl's message.’
    • ‘The main burden of Rogoff's criticism is that Stiglitz is an ivory-tower academic with no practical experience of real crises management situations.’
    gist, substance, drift, implication, intention, thrust, meaning, significance, signification, sense, essence, thesis, import, purport, tenor, message, spirit
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  • 3archaic The refrain or chorus of a song.

    • ‘The first two lines constitute the burden or refrain which is customarily repeated after every stanza.’
    • ‘It is to be found in many cultures and periods, for example in the medieval carol, where the burden represents the A section.’
    • ‘The refrain stands at the head and is sung by all: a soloist sings the various stanzas; and all add to each of them the opening burden or refrain.’
    refrain, strain
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[with object]
  • 1Load heavily.

    ‘she walked forward burdened with a wooden box’
    • ‘Bustling in, burdened with packages, she had just returned from a twelve-hour day at The Children's Art Carnival.’
    • ‘A camel, burdened with a heavy load, slowly trudges across the hot desert sand with no relief from the burning sun.’
    • ‘Ants burdened with loads of leaf fragments march toward their underground fungal gardens.’
    load, weight, charge
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    1. 1.1 Cause (someone) hardship or distress.
      ‘they were not yet burdened with adult responsibility’
      • ‘Your other children, in particular, may try to deal with their pain alone so as not to burden you with additional worries.’
      • ‘Jacob urged all regional administrations not to further burden the displaced people and to allow their children to be exempt from school tuition fees.’
      • ‘Some people find it easier to talk to an anonymous stranger about their worries and fears than to burden a family member or friend.’
      • ‘You know, a prosecutor can put this together, and argue that he knew something was going to happen, so he would no longer have that life that was burdening him.’
      • ‘Besides it being unfair and immature for adults to burden children with such an assignment, taking these messages into the schools is both illogical and ineffective.’
      • ‘Unfortunately we are burdened by a new system which requires an executive to respond to scrutiny proposals.’
      • ‘You feel burdened by too much work or responsibility, its best to share and delegate work and not carry the entire load yourself.’
      • ‘Don't burden him with chores, as this could further his stress.’
      • ‘He hates you for ruining his life, by burdening him with a responsibility that his weak male ego was unable to bear.’
      • ‘There was a well-publicised spat with sports writers whom he claimed were burdening him with too much attention for a tennis player ranked in the 40-somethings.’
      • ‘Back in those days, I didn't want to burden other people with my pain.’
      • ‘But I think at this stage, we're better off taking the risk and hitting the traffickers than burdening the farmers with a major eradication program.’
      • ‘The role prevents women in senior positions from burdening other people with their problems.’
      • ‘Liz, who suffers from burnout, tells of a neighbor who burdens her with a harrowing tale of Vietnam.’
      • ‘They shouldn't worry about burdening us with calls, that's what we're there for.’
      • ‘Their pain does not allow them to see how much the increased financial responsibility burdens the men.’
      • ‘In the worst cases angina had a devastating impact on quality of life, leaving patients in a state of ‘hopelessness and pain’ and also severely burdening families and health services.’
      • ‘Yet when he's hurt he pulls away, not wanting to burden anyone with his worries.’
      • ‘Often, they explained, children won't reveal their worries because they don't want to burden their parents.’
      • ‘Next they don't want their deaths to burden their families or leave responsibilities unresolved.’
      oppress, trouble, cause trouble to, cause suffering to
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  • burden of proof

    • The obligation to prove one's assertion.

      • ‘It also made clear that the burden of proof would be put on the concerned governments.’
      • ‘This new emphasis must push further the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defence.’
      • ‘It may well be that the ultimate objection is that such a pleading places a burden of proof on the claimant to prove his innocence.’
      • ‘He also says that the burden of proof in Ireland for a successful prosecution is far higher than in other countries.’
      • ‘The Crown continues to have the burden of proof of proving an offence beyond a reasonable doubt.’
      • ‘At an industrial tribunal, the burden of proof is on the employer to prove that it did not discriminate in the ways complained of.’
      • ‘These provisions set out the burden of proof in discrimination cases.’
      • ‘There is a reason why there is a burden of proof - in science as well as law!’
      • ‘The presumption of innocence is in effect being overturned here, placing the burden of proof on the accused.’
      • ‘The plaintiff retains the burden of proof, but the jury is instructed that acceptable proof to satisfy that burden can take one of several forms.’


Old English byrthen, of West Germanic origin; related to bear.