Verb > Clamber

Verb – Clamber

This word probably comes from “climb,” in the same way that “chatter” comes from “chat” and “glimmer” comes from “gleam.”

To clamber, literally, is to climb in an awkward, effortful way, often with hands and feet.

And to clamber figuratively is to talk or behave in an awkward, effortful way as you’re working on some process or working toward some goal, as if you’re climbing up or along with both hands and feet.

CLAM bur

Part of speech:
Verb, usually the intransitive kind: “she clambered over the rocks,” “he clambered up in the ranks.”

Other forms:
Clambered, clambering, clamberer(s).

Clamber” can also be a noun, meaning “an act of climbing awkwardly,” as in, “Our clamber over the rocks was noisy.”

How to use it:
This word is common and informal.

Clambering is most often a movement upwards, and sometimes across or downwards, whether literally or figuratively–but as long as the movement you’re describing has at a least a touch of clumsiness or awkwardness, you can call it clambering.

You can be literal and talk about children, adults, and animals clambering. Usually we tack on a prepositional phrase: “we clambered up the hill,” “he clambered back to his feet,” “she clambered onto the roof,” “they paid for their margaritas and clambered back into the riverboat.”

And you can be figurative and talk about people or things clambering: “vines clamber up the brick chimney,” “he clambered his way into her heart,” “she’s clambering up in the polls,” “somehow he and his trademark hair clambered into power.”

I’d love to see “clamber” used figuratively more often, so let me suggest one more way to do it. Take something abstract, like love or hope or anxiety, and personify it by saying that it is clambering–or toss in a simile by saying that it’s like some clambering creature. Here’s D. H. Lawrence:

LOVE has crept out of her sealéd heart
As a field-bee, black and amber,
Breaks from the winter-cell, to clamber
Up the warm grass where the sunbeams start.

“As a species, we clamber for places where there are natural materials all around us.”
— Michael Green, as quoted by Leyland Cecco, The Guardian, 22 July 2019

“The hype trains touting NFL offseason activity typically start leaving their stations each January, when new head coaches are hired and fan bases are fired up about the fresh start… The first-round draft picks clamber aboard at the end of April.”
— Dave Campbell, Associated Press, 21 December 2018