Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am looking for a word to use to describe a person who is, in a nutshell free from many of life's burdens most other people are subject to. Someone not carrying a proverbial load, weight, baggage. Someone unencumbered? Unencumbered with financial worries, bills, emotional baggage, the Jones effect, opinion of others etc.

Is unencumbered a good word or is there a better one?

share|improve this question
    
If the emotional baggage is lurking but the person tries to keep it well-hidden, those are skeletons in the closet. So, "She doesn't have any skeletons in her closet" might be a way to describe some of the people you are talking about. (I think unencumbered describes a wider group than that, but I thought it was still worth mentioning in a comment.) As for your "Is there a better word" question, that depends on the proverbial load – and on the context. –  J.R. Jan 7 at 0:35
    
Free bird! books.google.co.in/…; –  Kris Jan 7 at 7:03

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Unencumbered is a very good word. There are others, if you want; one is free spirit a person who is not constrained by convention, as in lifestyle or dress; if you describe someone as a free spirit, you admire them because they are independent and live as they want to live rather than in a conventional way. You could also consider nonconformist or unburdened, but as I write these out, I don't think they are as good as unencumbered.

share|improve this answer
    
thanks. i think it's just that it hasn't been used much in contemporary lingo... –  amphibient Jan 7 at 0:10
1  
@amphibient - it's a very good word, maybe the best for your overall purpose, and I could definitely see it as a person. –  medica Jan 7 at 0:12
    
I somewhat disagree with this answer --- while I think that unencumbered/not encumbered is a good word to describe a person's attitudes to particular issues, e.g. "Susan was not encumbered by her heavy backpack", I think that as a general description of a person, or in reference to multiple issues, unencumbered can be an unusual or even a poor choice, though this is possibly because I haven't seen it used much in that context. –  Newb Jan 7 at 0:13
    
@Newb - you and I disagree here. A person can be unencumbered by traditional values, a menial career, large college loans, etc. It's precise, concise, evocative. I like it. –  medica Jan 7 at 0:21
1  
@Newb - You need to look harder; I've left you some other examples under your answer as well. We can be encumbered by a lot of things, not just backpacks and luggage. –  J.R. Jan 7 at 0:50

unencumbered has one shortcoming: it almost always requires to be used in the form unencumbered by {something}, which means that to describe a person, you have to list the things by which that person is not encumbered. I think that can be a little clumsy and unclean, and that it might be in better form to just use a word that doesn't require you to list a set of specific things.

You may want to consider carefree, insouciant, untroubled, or perhaps even easy-going, in certain contexts.

If you word your phrase carefully, then light would also be a great word for the task --- I think that to live lightly is a particularly nice and expressive phrase, though that may just be my personal preference. (I think it would work well in this context because the burdens you describe are necessarily heavy, so light works well as the obvious antonym.)

share|improve this answer
2  
What makes you say this is "rarely" used to describe people? From published books: "He was unencumbered by family ties, physically strong, mentally quiet" "He was unencumbered by financial concerns and thus was able to devote himself to independent scholarship" "He was unencumbered by the silly and the trivial. There was nothing petty about him." "He was unencumbered with any superfluous diffidence" "He was unencumbered by loss, unburdened by liquidators" "The worker was mobile, because he was unencumbered by property, and institutionally free" "She was unencumbered by a husband and children." –  J.R. Jan 7 at 0:48
    
@J.R. What makes me reluctant to recommend the word unencumbered is that it, in describing people, almost always requires a by <something>. I was trying to supply a good way of describing such a person without having to add the specific conditions, i.e. without having to add the phrase by <something>. –  Newb Jan 7 at 1:04
    
That's a good point, and nice argument for carefree. Nevertheless, that's not what your answer says; I think you might want to revise your opening. Your first sentence ("unencumbered is rarely used to describe people; it is usually used to describe the carrying out of tasks") strikes me as erroneous on two counts: (1) there are plenty of precedents where the word is used to describe people, and (2) even though it can be used to describe the carrying out of tasks, I don't think that could be categorically described as its "usual" usage. –  J.R. Jan 7 at 1:11
    
@J.R. You are right; I will amend my answer accordingly. –  Newb Jan 7 at 5:32

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.