Wood, Timber or Lumber?

09 June 2023

Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question about the difference between "wood," "timber," and "lumber."


Hi VOA Learning English team.

My name is Yen, and I am from Vietnam.
I have followed VOA (for) more than 7 years. Can you explain the different meanings between "wood," "lumber," and "timber?" I hope you (can) help (with) how to use individual word(s) in sentences also.

Many thanks,

Ask a Teacher: Wood, Timber or Lumber?
Ask a Teacher: Wood, Timber or Lumber?


Thank you, Yen for writing to us and being a loyal follower all these years!

The words "timber" and "lumber" have different meanings in American and British English.

Let us look at what these words mean in American English.


Wood is the hard substance that makes up trees. It helps with the movement of water and nutrients through the tree to the branches and leaves. The structure of wood is fibrous.

There are many kinds of wood, such as hardwood from maple trees and softwood from pine trees.

Wood is also the material used to make things like pencils or toothpicks.

She makes bowls out of wood.

Many children learn to write with a wooden pencil.

In an earlier Ask a Teacher, we answered a question about the word "woods," which means a forested area.


In the United States and Canada, "timber" can mean either wood from standing trees or wood that has just been cut but is unprocessed.

The loggers loaded the timber onto the truck after cutting down the trees.

Just like "a wood," the word "timber" can describe a grouping of trees or a wooded area.

Timber often appears combined with other words like "line" and "land."

The timberline is a high area of elevation that marks the limit for tree growth.

Timberlands are areas of forest used especially for timber.

When loggers are cutting down trees, they traditionally yell, "Timber!" The goal is to warn people of the falling tree.

"Timber" as a verb means to cover or support with timber.

We timbered the cabin with fresh logs.

Now let us look at lumber.


The word "lumber" in American English means wood that has been processed or cut into boards.

You can find lumber products at the local hardware or home-and-garden store.

Lumber, much like timber, can also be used as a verb. It can mean cutting or preparing wood to make it into lumber.

He lumbered his own wood for his house.

But it can also mean to move in a slow or unskilled way.

She lumbered through the room beneath the heavy weight of her load.

Please let us know if these explanations and examples have helped you, Nguyen.

What questions do you have about American English? Send us an email at learningenglish@voanews.com

And that's Ask a Teacher.

I'm Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

nutrients – n. individual substances in food that humans and animals need to live and grow

fibrous – adj. containing, made of, or resembling fibers

elevation – n. the height of a place

logn. a long, heavy section of a tree that has fallen or been cut down

hardware – n. equipment used for a particular purpose