Definition of tumbril in US English:


(also tumbrel)


  • 1An open cart that tilted backward to empty out its load, in particular one used to convey condemned prisoners to the guillotine during the French Revolution.

    • ‘Connected to the terrible lucidity of the condemned man in the tumbril is the unearthly lucidity of the pre-epileptic aura, bliss without time or space, eternity in an instant.’
    • ‘Here come the tumbrils, inching their way slowly through the rotting cabbages and vulgar ribaldry of Republican isolationists.’
    • ‘As the dawn broke over Paris the sound of the tumbrel wheels awoke the prisoners from their fitful sleep and they were soon loaded like animals to go on their last journey.’
    1. 1.1 A two-wheeled covered cart which carried tools or ammunition for an army.
      • ‘While terrified soldiers sought refuge inside the ministry, a tumbril was found.’


Middle English (originally denoting a type of cucking-stool): from Old French tomberel, from tomber ‘to fall’.