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burr Syllabification: burr

Definition of burr in English:


1 [in singular] A rough sounding of the sound r, especially with a uvular trill (a “French r”) as in certain Northern England accents.
[ Mid 18th century]
Example sentences
  • 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.
  • The best way I know of to learn a uvular trill, sometimes called a 'burr', is by practicing gargling.
1.1(Loosely) a regional accent: a soft Scottish burr
More example sentences
  • ‘The walls in York are more museums,’ he says, in a soft Dublin accent that's overlaid by a Cheshire burr.
  • Now, he says in his soft Scots burr, he doesn't know what sort of accent he has.
  • ‘So sad what's happened with Scottish football,’ he mourns in his soft Fife burr.
1.2A whirring sound, such as a telephone ringing tone or the sound of cogs turning.
[ Early 19th century]
Example sentences
  • We made do with the pips on digital Radio 2, and the engaged burr of mobiles as the servers overflowed.
  • It consists of hums and burrs and the shush of compressed air engaging and disengaging continually.
  • A heartbeat, a voice, and a burr of conscience I continue to gratefully hear.
2 (also bur) A rough edge or ridge left on an object (especially of metal) by the action of a tool or machine.
[ Early 17th century]
Example sentences
  • When done, give the wall a light sanding to knock down any burrs or ridges.
  • It slices through any material (including six inches of titanium) without leaving any burrs, or rough edges.
  • Use a metal file to remove any burrs and to dull the sharp cut edges.
3 (also bur) A small rotary cutting tool with a shaped end, used chiefly in woodworking and dentistry.
[ Mid 19th century]
Example sentences
  • He or she then uses the shaver burr to reshape the head/neck junction to restore normal head/neck offset, which eliminates impingement.
  • The burr, connected to a drive shaft and a turbine powered by compressed air, rotates at speeds up to 200 000 rpm
  • The assistant smooths irregular edges with a motorized burr.
3.1A small surgical drill for making holes in bone, especially in the skull.
Example sentences
  • The surgeon makes a 6-cm incision and uses a 5.0 mm round cutting burr to drill the burr hole.
  • This infusion is not stopped until the burr hole is drilled and the surgeon is ready to begin microelectrode recording.
  • A further development was to use a brace and bit to ream out (as bone dust) burr holes about 1 cm in diameter.
4A siliceous rock used for millstones.
[ Mid 17th century]
Example sentences
  • 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 best and most popular stone ever discovered for grinding wheat into white flour is the French Burr.
  • 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.
4.1A whetstone.
Example sentences
  • These stones became the first burrs for grist mills.
5 (also bur) A ring of bone at the base of a deer’s antler. Also called coronet.
[ Late 16th century: possibly from French bourre 'vine bud' or related to burl1]
Example sentences
  • 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.
6 variant spelling of bur.


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1 [no object] Speak with an accent in which the sound r is trilled: [with direct speech]: “I like to have a purrrpose,” she burrs
[ Early 19th century]
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • "Ye're loaded, are ye, Parcy?" asked the genial host in the burring Northumbrian voice we know so well even to-day.
1.1Make a whirring sound such as a telephone ringing tone or the sound of cogs turning.
[ Late 18th century]
Example sentences
  • 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.
  • 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.
2 [with object] Form a rough edge on (metal): the handles were fixed by rivets burred over on the shield’s front
[ Late 19th century]
More example sentences
  • 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 one's saddle

North American informal A persistent source of irritation: he had been a burr under the saddle of the government in his time
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • 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.


sense 1 of the noun of the noun and verb is probably imitative, the word burr incorporating the uvular r, but it is also possibly a figurative use borrowed from sense 2 of the noun, sense 3 of the noun, and sense 4 of the noun and sense 2 of the verb, the r being a ‘rough’ sound. See also bur.

Words that rhyme with burr

à deux, agent provocateur, astir, auteur, aver, bestir, blur, bon viveur, Chandigarh, coiffeur, concur, confer, connoisseur, cordon-bleu, cri de cœur, cur, danseur, Darfur, defer, demur, de rigueur, deter, entrepreneur, er, err, farceur, faute de mieux, fir, flâneur, Fleur, force majeure, fur, hauteur, her, infer, inter, jongleur, Kerr, littérateur, longueur, masseur, Monseigneur, monsieur, Montesquieu, Montreux, murre, myrrh, occur, pas de deux, Pasteur, per, pisteur, poseur, pot-au-feu, prefer, prie-dieu, pudeur, purr, raconteur, rapporteur, refer, répétiteur, restaurateur, saboteur, sabreur, seigneur, Sher, shirr, sir, skirr, slur, souteneur, spur, stir, tant mieux, transfer, Ur, vieux jeu, voyageur, voyeur, were, whirr

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