Definition of burr in English:


Line breaks: burr
Pronunciation: /bəː


  • 1A whirring sound, such as a telephone ringing tone or the sound of cogs turning.
    More 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.
  • 1.1A rough pronunciation of the letter r, especially with a uvular trill as in a Northumberland accent.
    More 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.
  • 1.2(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.
  • 2 (also bur) A rough edge or ridge left on an object (especially of metal) by the action of a tool or machine.
    More 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.
    More 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.
    More 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.
  • 4 [mass noun] A siliceous rock used for millstones.
    More 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.
  • 4.1 [count noun] A whetstone.
    More example sentences
    • These stones became the first burrs for grist mills.
  • 5 (also bur) A prickly seed case or flower head that clings to clothing and animal fur.
    More example sentences
    • The plant must be eliminated before the flowers ripen and form the brown prickly burrs which spread the seeds.
    • He worked to make a synthetic material that duplicated the burs clinging to his wool socks.
    • It produces one inch long bur-like fruits with a single seed in each bur.
  • 5.1 [usually as modifier] A plant that produces burrs, for example bur-reed.
    More example sentences
    • Spot the walnut tree, toss the multi-hooked seed heads of the burr plants, help these path dwellers hitch a fleecy ride.
    • When we got here the nettles and sticky burrs had grown very high.
    • On show in the gallery is a striking coffee table fashioned from an elm burr found in a Tipperary wood.
  • 6 (also bur) [as modifier] Denoting wood containing knots or other growths which show a pattern of dense swirls in the grain when sawn, used for veneers and other decorative woodwork: burr walnut
    More example sentences
    • On these cars, this comes in the form of customised alloy wheels and special paint ranges, as well a host of specification upgrades, including Java leather, burr walnut or maple wood trims.
    • Working on a rosewood corner cupboard veneered in burr walnut, and featuring an inlaid marquetry honeysuckle design, will always remain one of Luke's favourite jobs.
    • The elegantly crafted table is constructed in English walnut with inlays of burr elm and satinwood stringing.
  • 7The coronet of a deer’s antler.
    More 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.


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  • 1 [no object] Make a whirring sound.
    More 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.
  • 1.1Speak with a regional accent, especially one in which the letter r is prominent.
    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.
  • 2 [with object] Form a rough edge on (metal).
    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 someone's saddle

North American informal A persistent source of irritation.
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.


Middle English (in sense 5 of the noun): probably of Scandinavian origin and related to Danish burre 'burr, burdock', Swedish kard-borre 'burdock'.

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