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!
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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
When Alexander and his father are called away on business, Katherine, overwhelmed with boredom, takes up with Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), one of the workers on the estate.
His wife, the documentary filmmaker and activist Yasmine Johnson, runs the Alliance of Moms, a nonprofit focused on serving pregnant and parenting teens in L.A.’s overwhelmed foster care system.
The study come two months after California’s labor commissioner asked Faulconer to partner with her on enforcement efforts because state officials in San Diego are overwhelmed by complaints.
Cold room overwhelms hot coffee Count this among whiny (but accurate) observations of media members.
Brandon Paul and Luis Montero combined for 36 points as the Dallas Mavericks overwhelmed Oklahoma City 96-75 Wednesday to stay unbeaten and advance to the championship game of the Orlando Summer League.
Imagine walking into a coffee shop and immediately being overwhelmed by the sounds of peoples' voices.
Matias showed up with his luggage in tow, and overwhelmed by the party and exhausted from his flight, went back to my house early.
Despite overwhelming evidence from intelligence agencies, President Trump had denied the interference of Russian hackers in the 2016 election until recently.
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 centurySee Words from the same year
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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