maelstrom

noun
mael·​strom | \ ˈmāl-strəm, -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

This maelstrom is a ravaged place where champions scavenge keys in hope of unlocking hallowed vaults. Charlie Theel, Ars Technica, "KeyForge: The red-hot card game where every deck is unique—and unchangeable," 15 Dec. 2018 The directors of this mythological maelstrom, Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun, use the flexibility of animation to create visual metaphors that represent the beauty and the terror of passing from one realm to the next. Teo Bugbee, New York Times, "Review: ‘Big Fish & Begonia’ Animates the Drama of Mortality," 5 Apr. 2018 Many Republican candidates have received sudden bursts of support when caught in the maelstrom of the nation’s charged politics. Matt Viser, The Seattle Times, "‘An angry mob’: Republicans work to recast Democratic protests as out-of-control anarchy," 8 Oct. 2018 Maybe this makes Arnold the ideal person to bring Trump down, then, because someone with a similar lack of shame might be just the person to fly into the maelstrom, Captain Ahab style. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "The Hunt for the Trump Tapes with Tom Arnold, explained," 18 Sep. 2018 Does Ehrenreich measure up? -- adds zest to the maelstrom surrounding this sort of movie. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'Solo' revives thrill of seeing new actors inhabit old roles," 24 May 2018 Art Basel Miami returns this week—and with it, a near-impossible-to-tally maelstrom of fairs, events, talks, openings, parties and spin-off activations. Nick Remsen, Vogue, "The Best New Drinks to Try in Miami During Art Basel," 3 Dec. 2018 Avast there, jet skiers! 'Tis is a fearsome maelstrom! Ken Jennings, Condé Nast Traveler, "This Texas Lake Developed a Boat-Swallowing Whirlpool," 3 Sep. 2018 Caught in the political maelstrom are Gov. Doug Ducey and Rep. Martha McSally. WSJ, "Arizona Republicans Brace for a Storm," 10 Aug. 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

19 Jan 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

: 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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