I believe a word currently exists that is used as a metaphor to mean something similar to, "a person is (willingly?) carrying a physical object, but there is no benefit to carrying (or transporting) the object and the carrying of the object is a significant burden to the person."

The meaning of this word/metaphor is closely related to the albatross metaphor from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In the poem, the mariner does not literally have the albatross hanging from his neck, however, even though he feels as if it were hanging from his neck. If the word I am looking for actually exists (and is not a mistaken memory of mine), the object/metaphor will be something that the person literally carries or holds.

I mistakenly believed that "lodestone" had this meaning, but I looked up the word and discovered that it merely means a magnetic stone. Oops: I am glad I checked.

I am not looking for words or phrases that are similar to shackles, ball and chain, hobbled, or Sisyphean task. The defects of those phrases involve one or more of the following: the condition is involuntary, the condition cannot be reversed or abandoned, it does not involve a physical object that is literally carried by the person.

Possible conclusions

  1. The word exists.
  2. In the tradition of misheard song lyrics, I believe that Jimi Hendrix would like to take a break and kiss this guy.
  3. There is a word or phrase that is close to what I believe exists, but not exactly what I believe exists.
  4. A motorcycle does not have doors.
  • 1
    There's also millstone, but that's metaphorical as well. Mar 1, 2015 at 20:47
  • 1
    I remember reading The Pilgrim's Progress as a child. It was a copy aimed at children (doubtless with simplified text), and there was a little drawing at the start of each chapter - often showing "The Pilgrim" ("Christian", the narrator) with a great big shaggy "haversack" on his back. About halfway through I was fascinated to notice that the haversack got progressively smaller in successive depictions. It was called a burden in the text, but even that was obviously a metaphoric reference (to the weight of Christian's past sins). Mar 1, 2015 at 22:10
  • He ain't heavy, he's my brother
    – RedSonja
    Mar 2, 2015 at 8:17

2 Answers 2


The term millstone is often used to reflect such a burden

A heavy and inescapable responsibility: she threatened to become a millstone around his neck

Oxford Dictionary Online

  • Ah, yes. That is the word I was trying to recall, and it seems that I also mis-remembered the precise meaning. Mar 1, 2015 at 20:50
  • 4
    Evidently not what you were looking for, but as an expression, there’s also the somewhat similar we all have our cross(es) to bear, which fits rather nicely into the definition you gave and involves carrying a physical object metaphorically, too. Mar 1, 2015 at 21:01
  • +1, but how did "millstone" become the exemplar of this scenario? Merely because a millstone is exceptionally heavy, or is there a backstory?
    – user98990
    Mar 1, 2015 at 23:59
  • 1
    Millstone in such usage, is from the Christian scriptures, where Jesus is written to have said, "better that a millstone be hanged around your/his neck and thrown into the sea". Mar 2, 2015 at 0:18
  • And there is always the concept of excess baggage
    – bib
    Mar 2, 2015 at 1:01

There is the term dead weight

Defined by The Free Dictionary as:

  1. an oppressive burden; encumbrance

It can be used to refer to extra weight with no benefit. For example you might ask someone,

"Why are you carrying around all that dead weight?"

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