Definition of overwhelm
- The city was overwhelmed by the flooding caused by the hurricane.
- The city was overwhelmed by the invading army.
- overwhelmed with grief
- overwhelmed by terror
- A sense of inadequacy overwhelmed me.
- overwhelmed with guilt
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP
Don't overwhelm him with facts.
They were overwhelmed with work.
The city was overwhelmed by the invading army.
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.
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.
: to affect (someone) very strongly
: to cause (someone) to have too many things to deal with
: to defeat (someone or something) completely
What made you want to look up overwhelm? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
Confusing Words—A Quiz