Definition of overwhelm
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
overwhelm was our Word of the Day on 11/08/2011. Hear the podcast!
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.
Recent Examples of overwhelm from the Web
Not surprisingly, Democratic opposition is overwhelming: 94 percent of liberal Democrats and 84 percent of moderate Democrats oppose the wall.
Helmut Kohl’s successful push for rapid German reunification looked to overwhelm Berlin’s underground.
Iraqi forces were quickly overwhelmed by American firepower.
In past years, the Memorial Day weekend was marked by mayhem leading to hundreds of arrests, while traffic jams overwhelmed the island city.
During the battle, Muslim forces overwhelmed their enemies despite being massively outnumbered.
Baltic countries, in particular, are worried about massing Russian military forces that could overwhelm them, and were hoping for the typical, ironclad U.S. commitment, but left disappointed.
The forecasts that Lamet has the capability to overwhelm major league hitters had proven accurate.
A rose-gold watch brings the bling without overwhelming rosy sunglasses.
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.
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.
Origin and Etymology of overwhelm
Middle English, from 1over + whelmen to turn over, cover up
First Known Use: 14th century
OVERWHELM Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of overwhelm for English Language Learners
: to affect (someone) very strongly
: to cause (someone) to have too many things to deal with
: to defeat (someone or something) completely
OVERWHELM Defined for Kids
Definition of overwhelm for Students
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.
Seen and Heard
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