Word Confusion: Timber versus Timbre

Posted October 19, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

It’s the timbre of your voice that’ll make all the difference *not* when yelling TIMBER! just before that tree falls down.

This was actually just a one-off I noted (and mentally corrected as I read) when some character was bringing timbre into his workshop. I suppose he could have been talking or singing to himself, even though the writer never indicated that…

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Timber Timbre
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: timber and timbre; Free Dictionary: timber; Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms: timber; Merriam-Webster; Collins Dictionary

Three turbaned men passing rough wood through a saw

“Wood Cutting in a Sawmill” is Parvathisri’s pwn work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Men turning timber into lumber.

A five-man band in jeans and T-shirts playing on a sidewalk

“0541 Street Band, New Orleans” by Mark Morgan Trinidad A is under the CC BY license, via VisualHunt.

The timbre of the music would be different here than inside four walls.

Part of Grammar:
Exclamation; Noun;
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: timbers
Past tense or past participle: timbered
Gerund or present participle: timbering

Plural for noun: timbres
A lumberjack’s call to warn those in the vicinity that a cut tree is about to fall to the ground

Wood prepared for use in building and carpentry

  • Trees grown for timber
  • [Usually timbers] A wooden beam or board used in building a house, ship, or other structure
  • [US; informal] Personal qualities or character, especially as seen as suitable for a particular role

[Chiefly U.S.] Wooded land

[Nautical; in a ship’s frame] One of the curved pieces of wood that spring upward and outward from the keel

  • Rib

[Collective noun] Animal skins, furs

Verb, intransitive:
To fell timber, especially as an occupation

Verb, transitive:
To furnish with timber

To support with timber

[Acoustics, Phonetics] The character or quality given to a sound by its overtones (and not from its pitch and loudness), such as:

  • The resonance by which the ear recognizes and identifies a voiced speech sound
  • The quality of tone distinctive of a particular singing voice or musical instrument

[Music] The characteristic quality of sound produced by a particular instrument or voice

  • Tone color

[Phonetics] The distinctive tone quality differentiating one vowel or sonant from another


We cried Timber! as our tree fell.

These forests have been exploited for timber since Saxon times.

It was a small, charming timber building.

We need those contracts to cut timber.

“The horn timber comes up from the top of the shaft log and forms a curved backbone all the way to the transom” (Mystic Seaport).

She is frequently hailed as presidential timber.

A timber fell from the roof.

Hunters have brought in a timber of ermine skins, marten skins, mink skins, and beaver skins.

Verb, intransitive:
The fallers are out timbering with axes and chainsaws.

Verb, transitive:
Have the men timber the mine shaft.

Use a thwart saw when timbering wood across the wood grain.

He uses trumpet mutes with different timbres to get that sound.

He has a voice high in pitch but rich in timbre.

His voice had a deep timbre.

The timbre of the violin is far richer than that of the mouth organ.

“For that rich, easy timbre you forgive his wooden acting.” – Times, Sunday Times, 2011

Adjective: timbered, timberless, timbery
Noun: timbering, timberland, timberline, timberwork, timberyard
Adjective: timbral
History of the Word:
Old English in the sense of a building, also building material. It is of Germanic origin and related to the German Zimmer meaning room, from an Indo-European root meaning build. Mid-19th century from the French, which is from the medieval Greek timbanon, which is itself from the Greek tumpanon meaning drum.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Violin by born1945 is under the CC BY-2.0 license, via VisualHunt and Old Loam Timber Framing Farm by enneafive is under the CC BY license, via VisualHunt.

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