overwhelm

verb
over·​whelm | \ˌō-vər-ˈhwelm, -ˈwelm\
overwhelmed; overwhelming; overwhelms

Definition of overwhelm 

transitive verb

1 : upset, overthrow The tornado overwhelmed many mobile homes.

2a : to cover over completely : submerge The city was overwhelmed by the flooding caused by the hurricane.

b : to overcome by superior force or numbers The city was overwhelmed by the invading army.

c : to overpower in thought or feeling overwhelmed with grief overwhelmed by terror A sense of inadequacy overwhelmed me. overwhelmed with guilt

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Synonyms & Antonyms for overwhelm

Synonyms

deluge, drown, engulf, flood, gulf, inundate, overflow, submerge, submerse, swamp

Antonyms

drain

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Did You Know?

You could say that the introduction of "overwhelm" to the English language was a bit redundant. The word, which originally meant "to overturn or upset," was formed in Middle English by combining the prefix over- with the verb "whelmen," which also meant "to overturn." "Whelmen" has survived in English as "whelm," a verb which is largely synonymous with "overwhelm." Over the last 600 years, however, "overwhelm" has won over English speakers who have come to largely prefer it to "whelm," despite the latter's brevity. Perhaps the emphatic redundancy of "overwhelm" makes it seem like the more fitting word for describing the experience of being overcome by powerful forces or feelings.

Examples of overwhelm in a Sentence

Don't overwhelm him with facts. They were overwhelmed with work. The city was overwhelmed by the invading army.
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Recent Examples on the Web

She's overwhelmed at work, and frankly me and the kids are a lot. Jessica Radloff, Glamour, "The Big Bang Theory Season 12, Episode 7 Recap: Bernadette Hides From Her Kids," 1 Nov. 2018 Most of them are overwhelmed by this human wave, and that is one reason why the caravan can’t be in one place for much time. José De Córdoba And Juan Montes, WSJ, "On the Caravan Trail, Grueling Conditions Take Toll on Migrants," 26 Oct. 2018 Sergeant Squelch isn't just being surrounded by love, he's being overwhelmed by love. Fox News, "Kavanaugh denies assault allegations in Fox News interview," 25 Sep. 2018 That the world’s waterways are overwhelmed with plastic debris that breaks down into microscopic beads, killing off sea and avian life at a terrifying rate. Steve Friess, SELF, "Why Environmentalist Lizzie Carr Is Paddleboarding 170 Miles Down the Hudson River," 7 Sep. 2018 On June 4, Davis was overwhelmed by the surprise gift of a 2014 Mazda tweaked to showroom condition. Diane Bell, sandiegouniontribune.com, "When Hoover High cafeteria worker's story goes viral, her 'other life' is revealed," 13 July 2018 As the afternoon approaches, you might be overwhelmed by calls and emails. BostonGlobe.com, "Horoscope," 13 July 2018 Many college campuses are overwhelmed with students seeking mental health support, so their classmates are stepping in. Aubrey Nagle, Philly.com, "Local Dems oppose SCOTUS pick, school board hosts first public meeting | Morning Newsletter," 10 July 2018 When the Aviles family got the call, they were overwhelmed with relief and happiness and forever thankful to their hero. Danielle Barker, USA TODAY, "Army veteran meets the little girl he saved with his bone marrow donation," 6 July 2018

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for overwhelm

Middle English, from over entry 1 + whelmen to turn over, cover up

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Statistics for overwhelm

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for overwhelm

The first known use of overwhelm was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for overwhelm

overwhelm

verb

English Language Learners Definition of overwhelm

: to affect (someone) very strongly

: to cause (someone) to have too many things to deal with

: to defeat (someone or something) completely

overwhelm

verb
over·​whelm | \ˌō-vər-ˈhwelm, -ˈwelm\
overwhelmed; overwhelming

Kids Definition of overwhelm

1 : to overcome completely (as with great force or emotion) The larger army overwhelmed the troops. She was overwhelmed with grief.

2 : to cover over completely : submerge Waves overwhelmed the small boat.

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Comments on overwhelm

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