maelstrom

noun
mael·​strom | \ ˈmāl-strəm How to pronounce maelstrom (audio) , -ˌsträm\

Definition of maelstrom

1 : a powerful often violent whirlpool sucking in objects within a given radius tried to shoot the canoe across a stretch of treacherous maelstromHarper's
2 : something resembling a maelstrom in turbulence the maelstrom enveloping the country a maelstrom of emotions

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Synonyms for maelstrom

Synonyms

gulf, vortex, whirlpool

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Did You Know?

Maelstrom comes from an early Dutch proper noun that literally meant "turning stream." The original Maelstrom is a channel that has dangerous tidal currents located off the northwest coast of Norway. The word became popularized in the general vocabulary of English in reference to a powerful whirlpool, or something akin to one, in the 19th century. This was partly due to its use by writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne (whose writing was widely translated from French) in stories exaggerating the tempestuousness of the Norwegian current and transforming it into a whirling vortex.

Examples of maelstrom in a Sentence

She was caught in a maelstrom of emotions. The ship was drawn into the maelstrom.

Recent Examples on the Web

Do these scootees get breathalyzed before entering the maelstrom of foot traffic? Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: Keep the Clean Power Plan; Don’t blame the scooter; America can do better on climate; Hall of Fame is run by louts (6/25/19)," 26 June 2019 Nearly as big as the maelstrom that Voyager documented, the baby storm seemed to take shape from bright white clouds between 2015 through 2017, emerging as a full-fledged gyre in 2018. National Geographic, "Neptune, explained," 28 Mar. 2019 Hyneman calls it The Rainstorm: The inside of the tank is a maelstrom. Kevin Dupzyk, Popular Mechanics, "The Tank That's Tougher Than Wildfire," 13 Nov. 2018 What followed was a media maelstrom, and a little over a year later, unable to turn the publication’s profits around, Mr. Hughes sold the magazine. ConcepciÓn De LeÓn, New York Times, "The Redemption of Chris Hughes," 21 Feb. 2018 Into this credit maelstrom, Beijing has chosen to liberalize its financial system. Edward Chancellor, WSJ, "‘Red Flags’ Review: Trade War and Other Troubles," 9 Dec. 2018 In this case, Hart didn’t get accidentally caught up in a maelstrom driven by angry people. Aja Romano, Vox, "Why the Kevin Hart Oscars backlash is different from other recent public shamings," 5 Jan. 2019 This maelstrom is an exhausting workout for wrist and arms. David Dubal, WSJ, "Studies in Reckless Virtuosity," 16 Nov. 2018 At the center of the maelstrom is Mr. Carlson-Wee, a Silicon Valley star who wears neon tracksuits, has five earrings and routinely eats only a plate of refried beans, garlic and cheese for dinner. Rob Copeland, WSJ, "Olaf Carlson-Wee Rode the Bitcoin Boom to Silicon Valley Riches. Can He Survive the Crash?," 11 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'maelstrom.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of maelstrom

1659, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for maelstrom

obsolete Dutch (now maalstroom), from malen to grind + strom stream

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Statistics for maelstrom

Last Updated

6 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for maelstrom

The first known use of maelstrom was in 1659

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More Definitions for maelstrom

maelstrom

noun

English Language Learners Definition of maelstrom

literary
: a situation in which there are a lot of confused activities, emotions, etc.
: a dangerous area of water that moves very fast in a circle

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More from Merriam-Webster on maelstrom

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for maelstrom

Spanish Central: Translation of maelstrom

Nglish: Translation of maelstrom for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about maelstrom

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