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or tumbril

[tuhm-bruh l] /ˈtʌm brəl/
one of the carts used during the French Revolution to convey victims to the guillotine.
a farmer's cart, especially one for hauling manure, that can be tilted to discharge its load.
Obsolete. a two-wheeled covered cart accompanying artillery for carrying tools, ammunition, etc.
Origin of tumbrel
1275-1325; Middle English tumberell ducking stool < Medieval Latin tumberellus < Old French tumberel dump-cart, equivalent to tombe(r) to fall (see tumble) + -rel -rel Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for tumbril
Historical Examples
  • Up the Canongate comes the rumbling of a tumbril, like the French Revolution.

    The Spell of Scotland Keith Clark
  • The second tumbril empties and moves on; the third comes up.

    A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens
  • Bodies were thrown into the tumbril, head downwards, from the fourth storey.

  • The tumbril and the guillotine would not have made her weep.

    The Paliser case Edgar Saltus
  • The driver in charge of the tumbril, fearing a riot and a rescue, whipped up the horses and drove on with his load.

    Superwomen Albert Payson Terhune
  • Then she was put into the tumbril, and was started on her way to the scaffold.

    Superwomen Albert Payson Terhune
  • The tumbril that bore him to execution was stopped on its way by the furious rabble, and he was torn in pieces by them.

    The Golden Dog William Kirby
  • He saw Jeanne, and only Jeanne, standing on the tumbril and being led to the guillotine.

    El Dorado Baroness Orczy
  • Her face was flushed and animated, and she was talking loudly and rapidly to the crowd which followed the tumbril.

    Robert Tournay William Sage
  • He mounted the tumbril with him, he mounted the scaffold with him.

    Les Misrables Victor Hugo
British Dictionary definitions for tumbril


a farm cart for carrying dung, esp one that tilts backwards to deposit its load. A cart of this type was used to take condemned prisoners to the guillotine during the French Revolution
(formerly) a covered cart that accompanied artillery in order to carry ammunition, tools, etc
an obsolete word for a ducking stool
Word Origin
C14 tumberell ducking stool, from Medieval Latin tumbrellum from Old French tumberel dump cart, from tomber to tumble, of Germanic origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for tumbril



mid-15c., "two-wheeled cart," earlier an instrument of punishment of uncertain type (early 13c.), from Old French tumberel "dump cart," from tomber "(let) fall or tumble," possibly from a Germanic source (cf. Old Norse tumba "to tumble," Old High German tumon "to turn, reel;" see tumble). Notoriously used to take victims to the guillotine during the Reign of Terror.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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