benumb (benumbs, present participle benumbing; past and past participle benumbed)

  1. (transitive) To make numb, as by cold or anesthetic.
    • 1583, John Foxe, Acts and Monuments, London: John Daye, Book 4, p. 233,
      […] the sayd Phillip […] in the same his pilgrimage was stricken with such colde, that he fell into a palsey, and was benumbed of the right side of his body.
    • 1719, Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, London: W. Taylor, p. 344,
      […] the Cold was insufferable; nor indeed was it more painful than it was surprising, to come but ten Days before out of the old Castile where the Weather was not only warm but very hot, and immediately to feel a Wind from the Pyrenean Mountains, so very keen, so severely cold, as to be intollerable, and to endanger benumbing and perishing of our Fingers and Toes.
    • 1847, Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey, Chapter 2,
      ‘My hands are so benumbed with the cold that I can scarcely handle my knife and fork.’
  2. (transitive, figurative) To deaden, dull (the mind, faculties, etc.).
    • circa 1601 William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act II, Scene 2,
      […] If this law
      Of nature be corrupted through affection,
      And that great minds, of partial indulgence
      To their benumbed wills, resist the same,
      There is a law in each well-order’d nation
      To curb those raging appetites that are
      Most disobedient and refractory.
    • 1741, Samuel Richardson, Pamela, London: C. Rivington & J. Osborn, Volume 1, Letter 11, p. 18,
      I struggled, and trembled, and was so benumb’d with Terror, that I sunk down, not in a Fit, and yet not myself […]
    • 1876, George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, Book 2, Chapter 17,
      Sorrowful isolation had benumbed her sense of reality, and the power of distinguishing outward and inward was continually slipping away from her.
    • 2002, Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (novel), New York: Picador, “Hermaphroditus,” p. 483,
      Five nights a week, six hours a day, for the next four months—and, fortunately, never again—I made my living by exhibiting the peculiar way I am formed. The Clinic had prepared me for it, benumbing my sense of shame, and besides, I was desperate for money.

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