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 the Scottish philosopher Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations. But while overweening conceit might be an age-old evil, the word overweening is of 14th century vintage. It developed from a form of the Middle English verb overwenen, meaning “to be arrogant.” That term built on wenen, meaning “to think” or “to suppose.” Today, the adjective overweening is the most widely used of the wenen descendants, but historical texts also occasionally include the verb overween, meaning “to think too highly of one’s own opinion.” It was also possible at one time to ween just enough, without overdoing it. All things in moderation—even self-esteem—after all.

Examples of overweening in a Sentence

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 Out of an overweening sense of modesty, perhaps, this won’t really come across to the uninitiated. Peter Rainer, The Christian Science Monitor, 29 Mar. 2024 Unlike Zakaria, Perl-Rosenthal doesn’t really believe that counter-revolutionary or illiberal reversals prove that the early revolutionaries were overweening. Gideon Lewis-Kraus, The New Yorker, 25 Mar. 2024 Historical precedent suggested the country’s overweening military authorities would not accept any outcome that went against their political agenda. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 11 Feb. 2024 Orban’s antics help polarize the conversation within his country, turning the opposition into would-be abettors of overweening foreign technocrats. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 2 Feb. 2024 This is one sick twist of a tryst, with the two forming a strange — and ultimately tiresome — double helix of sadomasochistic desire and overweening ego. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, 21 Nov. 2023 The wall labels follow suit, offering helpful information about materials and biographical events, along with occasional quotes from the artist, steering well clear of overweening, interpretive helicopter curating. Susan Tallman, The New York Review of Books, 2 Nov. 2023 The radical expansion of NATO’s writ reflected the overweening aims that the end of the Cold War enabled Washington to pursue. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 3 May 2023 The overweening progressivism of the Wilson presidency catalyzed a reaction, with progressive theorists streaming into Democratic senior ranks, while Wilson’s Republican successors (Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge) led a conservative, small-government counterrevolution. Dan McLaughlin, National Review, 16 Mar. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'overweening.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 15 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


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

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