from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Nautical Weight or materials, such as rigging, cables, and spars, stored either aloft or on the upper decks.
  • n. Cumbersome, unnecessary matter.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The upper rigging, spars, etc., of a ship.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. unnecessary spars and rigging kept aloft.
  • n. The upper rigging, spars, etc., of a ship.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Nautical: Any unnecessary weight, either aloft or about the upper decks.
  • n. The light upper sails and their gear.
  • n. The whole of the rigging and sails of: a ship.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • "As soon as the sea rises," she said, "we'll have that loose main-yard and all the rest of the top-hamper tumbling down on deck."


  • Well, you won't make land or anything else in a thousand years once you get all your top-hamper piled down on deck.


  • Daughtry and the captain emerged last from the cabin, and both stared upward for a moment at the gaps in the slender, sky - scraping top-hamper, where, only minutes before, the main - and mizzen-topmasts had been.


  • I cried, “and there was our poor little top-hamper of intelligence on all these waves of instinct and wordless desire, these foaming things of touch and sight and feeling, like — like a coop of hens washed overboard and clucking amidst the seas.”

    In the Days of the Comet

  • Already I was level with the top-hamper of the masts to either side.

    The Urth of the New Sun

  • At last I approached the faint descending gossamers of the rigging, cables that sometimes caught the starlight, sometimes vanished in the darkness or against the towering bank of silver that was the top-hamper of the deck beyond.

    The Urth of the New Sun

  • This was the fourth time he had ventured beneath the sea in his search for the coveted weapon, which was to free the ship from the cumbersome masts and top-hamper that kept her down on her beam-ends.

    The White Squall A Story of the Sargasso Sea

  • _Josephine_ appeared to show nearly as much top-hamper as she did before the gale, only that all the masts were much shorter than before, the foremast especially being only an apology for the former spar.

    The White Squall A Story of the Sargasso Sea

  • And presently the "something" -- a mere patch of denser black in a darkness emphasized more than relieved by the grey-white crests of breaking seas -- resolved itself into a large vessel, which as day broke was seen to be a frigate, like themselves under the shortest of canvas, and with all possible top-hamper down on deck.

    Stories of the Border Marches

  • Fortunately, there were no men aloft at the time the wind chopped so suddenly, or they must have been swept overboard with the wreck of the top-hamper, that was now grinding against the vessel's side to leeward right under her quarter, and bumping with such force against her timbers as to threaten to stove them in.

    Picked up at Sea The Gold Miners of Minturne Creek


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  • "Weight and encumbrance aloft, originally referring to a ship's upper masts, sails, and rigging. Later, also, the burden above the hull." --A Sea of Words, 443

    March 10, 2008