over·​ween·​ing ˌō-vər-ˈwē-niŋ How to pronounce overweening (audio)
overweeningly adverb

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The overweening conceit which the greater part of men have of their own abilities is an ancient evil remarked by the philosophers and moralists of all ages. So wrote Adam Smith in his The Wealth of Nations. But while overweening conceit might be an age-old evil, the word overweening has only been part of English since the 14th century. It developed from the Middle English overwening, the present participle of the verb overwenen, which meant "to be arrogant." That term derived in turn from wenen, which meant "to think" or "to imagine." Today, the adjective overweening is the most widely used of the wenen descendants, but historical texts also occasionally include overween, a term for thinking too highly of your own opinion.

Example Sentences

a director who has little patience for overweening actors who think they are above taking advice and criticism overweening desire for wealth and fame
Recent Examples on the Web At the federal level, the Justices have been active in striking down overweening regulations on political expression. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 8 Aug. 2022 The system in Baghdad, of course, is a legacy of both American invasion and occupation and the overweening Iranian influence that found its way into the corridors of power after the removal of dictator Saddam Hussein. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 31 Aug. 2022 In this Argentine-Spanish co-production, Banderas plays Félix Rivero, an international movie star who places himself under the orders of Lola Cuevas (Cruz), an overweening independent director. Los Angeles Times, 20 June 2022 The only development has been the placement of a wooden plank in the ground, creating a fence that is as narrow as the property and as overweening as the reach of property rights in New York City. Jonathon Keats, Forbes, 24 June 2022 The biggest concern in Beijing, and what could ignite a new round of Chinese preparedness, is its perpetual paranoia combined with overweening ambition to be considered a major power, especially in its own backyard. David A. Andelman, CNN, 24 May 2022 But there’s no real idea of the character beyond an overweening shamelessness. New York Times, 12 Apr. 2022 In the post–World War II conservative coalition, classical liberals and social conservatives united in opposition to big government because it was believed that an overweening government was a threat both to freedom and to traditional values. Rich Lowry, National Review, 18 Feb. 2022 The Big Short was his overweening, unintelligible reaction to the 2008 recession. Armond White, National Review, 12 Jan. 2022 See More

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

Word History


Middle English overwening, present participle of overwenen to be arrogant, from over + wenen to ween

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of overweening was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near overweening

Cite this Entry

“Overweening.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/overweening. Accessed 26 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


over·​ween·​ing ˌō-vər-ˈwē-niŋ How to pronounce overweening (audio)
: immoderate, exaggerated
overweening pride
overweeningly adverb

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