AskDefine | Define hamper

Dictionary Definition



1 a restraint that confines or restricts freedom (especially something used to tie down or restrain a prisoner) [syn: shackle, bond, trammel, trammels]
2 a basket usually with a cover


1 prevent the progress or free movement of; "He was hampered in his efforts by the bad weather"; "the imperilist nation wanted to strangle the free trade between the two small countries" [syn: halter, cramp, strangle]
2 put at a disadvantage; "The brace I have to wear is hindering my movements" [syn: handicap, hinder]

User Contributed Dictionary


Etymology 1

Contracted from “hanaper


  1. A large basket, usually with a cover, used for the packing and carrying of articles; as,
    a hamper of wine
    a clothes hamper
    • an oyster hamper, which contains two bushels
A large basket, usually with a cover, used for the packing and carrying of articles


  1. To put into a hamper.

Etymology 2

Old English hamperen, hampren, probably of the same origin as English “hamble


  1. To put a hamper or fetter on; to shackle; to ensnare; to inveigle; hence, to impede in motion or progress; to embarrass; to encumber.
    • Blackmore:
      Hampered nerves.
    • L'Estrange:
      A lion hampered in a net.
    • Tillotson:
      They hamper and entangle our souls.
To put a hamper or fetter on; to shackle; to ensnare; to inveigle


  1. A shackle; a fetter; anything which impedes.
  2. Articles ordinarily indispensable, but in the way at certain times.
Derived terms
  • Top hamper, (Nautical): unnecessary spars and rigging kept aloft.
A shackle; a fetter; anything which impedes
Articles ordinarily indispensable, but in the way at certain times

Extensive Definition

A hamper is a primarily British term for a wicker basket, usually large, that is used for the transport of items, often food.
In America, the term hamper generally refers to a household receptacle for dirty clothing, regardless of its composition, i.e- "a laundry hamper".
In agricultural use, a hamper is a wide-mouthed container of basketwork that may often be carried on the back during the harvesting of fruit or vegetables by hand by workers in the field. The contents of the hamper may be decanted regularly into larger containers or a cart, wagon or truck.
The open ventilation and the sturdiness offered by a hamper has made it suitable for the transport of food, hence the use of the picnic hamper.
At one time it was common for laundry services to leave a large basketwork container with a lid which is now commonly referred to as a clothes hamper. The same type of container would be used to return clean clothing, which would be put away by the laundry service and the empty container left in place of the full container for later pickup.
This type of daily or bi-daily hamper service was most common with Chinese laundry services in 19th century England and America.

Charitable hamper

There is a long tradition of community and social philanthropy and charity related to hampers, in which persons or community groups donate to needy people a hamper of food, clothing, toiletries, cleaning products, or other household necessities, to assist with their family economy.
Up until the mid 20th century, in the Western tradition, the hamper was a basket that could be carried by the donor and physically handed to the recipient. This limited the size of the gift to food ingredients for at most several days, or other necessities for one to two weeks. The basket itself was a useful item around the house or farm, and any cloth wrapping for the food or lining of the basket would also be usable by the recipient family.
In more recent times, the hamper would likely be a plastic bag or acrylic fibre bag of a size that can be carried, with tinned or packaged goods. A Christmas hamper is likely to be bigger and have some party or celebratory foods, or toys. Hampers can also contain related festive foods.

Commercial hampers

A number of companies exist that provide customers the service of purchasing a ready made food hamper or compile a custom made hamper. These companies usually link their services to certain occasions, most particularly Christmas, and provide options for payment across the year.
Recently dietary hamper companies have sprung up which provide sufferers of diseases such as diabetes or intolerances to foods such as against gluten a selection of food which is suitable

See also

hamper in Spanish: cesta

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Oregon boat, anchor, bag, balk, bar, barrel, barricade, basket, bear hard upon, bilbo, bind, block, bond, bonds, bottle, box, box up, bridle, burden, burthen, camisole, can, capsule, cargo, carton, case, cask, chain, chains, charge, check, clog, collar, cramp, crate, creel, crimp, cripple, cross, cuffs, cumber, cumbrance, curb, curtail, deadweight, delay, difficulty, diminish, disadvantage, discomfit, embarrass, embarrassment, encase, enchain, encumber, encumbrance, encyst, enmesh, ensnarl, entangle, entoil, entrammel, entrap, entwine, fasten, fetter, foil, freight, frustrate, gag, gyve, gyves, halter, hamstring, handcuff, handcuffs, handicap, hinder, hobble, hobbles, hog-tie, hold up, hopple, hopples, hurdle, impede, impediment, impedimenta, imposition, inconvenience, inhibit, interfere with, involve, irons, jar, lade, lame, lash, leading strings, leash, lessen, lime, limit, load, lumber, make fast, manacle, moor, muzzle, net, obstruct, obstruction, onus, oppress, overburden, overload, overtax, overweight, pack, package, pannier, parcel, peg down, penalty, picket, pillory, pin down, pinion, pot, press down, press hard upon, prevent, punnet, put in irons, reduce, reins, rest hard upon, restrain, restraint, restraints, restrict, retard, rope, rub, sack, saddle, saddle with, secure, shackle, slow, snag, snarl, stocks, straightjacket, strait-waistcoat, straitjacket, stranglehold, strap, stumbling block, tangle, tank, tax, tether, thwart, tie, tie down, tie up, tight-fisted, tin, toil, trammel, trammels, trouble, weigh down, weigh heavy on, weigh on, weigh upon, weight, white elephant, yoke
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