over·​flow | \ ˌō-vər-ˈflō \
overflowed; overflowing; overflows

Definition of overflow

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to cover with or as if with water : inundate
2 : to flow over the brim of
3 : to cause to overflow

intransitive verb

1 : to flow over bounds
2 : to fill a space to capacity and spread beyond its limits the crowd overflowed into the street


over·​flow | \ ˈō-vər-ˌflō \

Definition of overflow (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a flowing over : inundation
2 : something that flows over : surplus
3 : an outlet or receptacle for surplus liquid

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Synonyms & Antonyms for overflow

Synonyms: Verb


Synonyms: Noun

alluvion, bath, cataclysm, cataract, deluge, flood, flood tide, inundation, Niagara, spate, torrent

Antonyms: Noun

drought (also drouth)

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Examples of overflow in a Sentence


The river overflowed its banks. The creek overflows every spring. The water in the tub overflowed. Books and papers overflowed his desk. The paragraph overflowed the page.


a great overflow of water from the heavy rains swept mud and silt down onto the highway an overflow of help actually made the job more complicated
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Her phone’s speakers soon overflow with Boney James’ saxophone. Marcus Harrison Green, The Seattle Times, "Grandparents raising grandkids say they need more help from Washington state," 28 Dec. 2018 Twitter — the service everyone uses to be outraged about things — was overflowing with angry reviews of the new update. Kurt Wagner, Recode, "Instagram got rid of the scrolling feed for some users and people freaked out," 27 Dec. 2018 Iskandar’s Listserv for State Farm policyholders across the region overflows with anecdotes of indignity. Susie Cagle, Curbed, "California’s changing fire country," 10 Oct. 2018 The hurricane has already triggered flash flood warnings on the Big Island, closing several roads and causing several rivers around Hilo to rise close to overflowing their banks. Travis Fedschun, Fox News, "Hurricane Lane lashing Hawaii's Big Island with heavy rain, landslides reported as state braces for the worst," 24 Aug. 2018 The role of his caregiver, Driss, was filled—to overflowing—by Omar Sy, a French comedian, comedy writer and TV personality. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "‘The Upside’ Review: Uplift on Demand," 10 Jan. 2019 But floodwaters from overflowing Crooked Creek covered the road and an emergency responder told her water was seeping into the houses. Fox News, "'Up in the air': If displaced by storm, where to call home?," 19 Sep. 2018 The city of Frederick also issued a release Wednesday night alerting residents that the city's wastewater treatment plant was at risk of overflowing. Sarah Meehan, baltimoresun.com, "Maryland weather: Frederick declares state of emergency as flooding, rain continues," 17 May 2018 The orchestra held up under Welser-Most's orders Thursday, and joy most certainly overflowed, but the price of negligible rests and pauses felt exceedingly steep. Zachary Lewis, cleveland.com, "Cleveland Orchestra's 'Prometheus Project' gets off to fiery start: review," 11 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The slack performance features an overflow of competitors who are not scheduled to compete in the main shows. Brett Hoffman, star-telegram, "Texas cowboy leading after first Bulls’ Night Out show," 16 Jan. 2018 Photo: Scott McCartney/The Wall Street Journal In Atlanta, sensors installed in paper-towel, toilet-tissue, sanitizer dispensers and plumbing fixtures alert custodians through an app to outages, leaks and overflows. Scott Mccartney, WSJ, "Airports Try Stall Tactic: Better Bathrooms," 2 Jan. 2019 Tilt the glass when pouring to avoid a bubbly overflow. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "The secret to champagne’s universal appeal is the physics of bubbles," 31 Dec. 2018 And that’s not the only kitchen space to fall victim to clutter overflow. Southern Living, "Gasp! A Surprising Number of Closet-Starved Americans Are Using Their Ovens for Storage," 21 June 2018 Sewage overflows are a long-standing concern along the lake-river corridor. Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press, "Lake St. Clair has worse E. coli pollution than Lake Erie, study finds," 31 May 2018 Flooding and overflow caused by ice jams on the Susitna near Curry shut down train service north of Talkeetna on Saturday morning, the railroad said. Alex Demarban, Anchorage Daily News, "‘Wall of ice’ on Susitna River damages railroad tracks near Curry," 14 May 2018 Jeff Ray, the prison’s public information officer, said county jails typically handle overflow prisoners from the state correctional center. Bowen West, idahostatesman, "New sentences: Creative writing program allows Idaho inmates to find their voices | Idaho Statesman," 9 May 2018 Sources likely include human waste from homeless camps, sewer overflows, wildlife and domestic dogs, Laputz said. Cynthia Hubert, sacbee, "Heading to the American River this week? Here's where E. coli levels are high," 3 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'overflow.' 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 overflow


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1568, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for overflow

Last Updated

9 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for overflow

The first known use of overflow was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for overflow



English Language Learners Definition of overflow

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to flow over the edge or top of (something)
: to fill or cover (something) completely
: to be completely filled with something : to be so filled that there is not enough room for anything or anyone more



English Language Learners Definition of overflow (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act of flowing over the edge or top of something
: the amount of something that flows over the edge or top of something else
: the number of people or things that goes over a limit


over·​flow | \ ˌō-vər-ˈflō \
overflowed; overflowing

Kids Definition of overflow

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to flow over the top of The river overflowed its banks.
2 : to flow over bounds The creek overflows every spring.
3 : to fill or become filled beyond capacity The basket was overflowing with candy.
4 : to fill a space up and spread beyond its limits The crowd overflowed into the street.


over·​flow | \ ˈō-vər-ˌflō \

Kids Definition of overflow (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a flowing over Dams couldn't stop the overflow.
2 : something that flows over or fills a space and spreads beyond its limits Police tried to control the overflow of traffic.


over·​flow | \ ˈō-vər-ˌflō \

Medical Definition of overflow

: an excessive flow or amount

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More from Merriam-Webster on overflow

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with overflow

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for overflow

Spanish Central: Translation of overflow

Nglish: Translation of overflow for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of overflow for Arabic Speakers

Comments on overflow

What made you want to look up overflow? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to express emotion in a dramatic way

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