un·​der·​whelm | \ ˌən-dər-ˈ(h)welm How to pronounce underwhelm (audio) \
underwhelmed; underwhelming; underwhelms

Definition of underwhelm

transitive verb

: to fail to impress or stimulate the movie underwhelmed most reviewers

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Did You Know?

Overwhelm and its rare synonym "whelm" have both been around since the 14th century, but "underwhelm" first appeared in print in 1949. Both "overwhelm" and "whelm" are derived from the Middle English "whelmen," which is perhaps an alteration of "whelmen" ("to turn over" or "to cover up"). "Underwhelm" is fashioned after "overwhelm" and probably originated as a playful alteration intended as a mildly humorous way of describing something unimpressive. More than one person claims the distinction of having invented "underwhelm"; several sources attribute it to the playwright George S. Kaufman, but sports columnist Red Smith is quoted as believing he coined the word himself, and still other sources cite other potential creators. Chances are that the word was in fact coined by more than one inventive writer.

Examples of underwhelm in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Despite these hangups that have caused 5G to underwhelm thus far, the networks are expected to continue to ramp up. Aj Dellinger, Forbes, "Feel Like Your 5G Network Is Slower Than Promised? You Aren’t Just Imagining It," 1 Mar. 2021 And Anfernee Simons, who figures to see more time now, continues to underwhelm on both ends. oregonlive, "Trail Blazers’ coronavirus postponements, Stephen Curry’s ‘organized chaos,’ Nets’ Big Three debut, the league’s scheduling problem, TV ratings: NBA news and notes," 21 Jan. 2021 Readers seeking gossipy tidbits about the North Korean leader’s European education may be underwhelmed by Kim Jong Un’s largely solitary childhood posing as an embassy brat. Lucy Tiven, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Getting to know Kim Jong Un, dead or alive," 7 May 2020 One of Robert Mueller's top prosecutors when Mueller was special counsel is underwhelmed by the advice former Obama administration lawyer David Kris gave on reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act process. Daniel Chaitin, Washington Examiner, "Not 'far enough': Top Mueller prosecutor urges former DOJ official to crank up heat on FISA reform," 20 Jan. 2020 His remarks are among the earliest in a campaign that only officially began Sunday after Bloomberg said he was underwhelmed by the already-long list of Democratic candidates. Ronald J. Hansen, azcentral, "Michael Bloomberg files to qualify for Arizona's presidential primary," 26 Nov. 2019 One exception was the team re-signing Nicolas Batum to a five-year, $120 million deal in 2016, but Batum has underwhelmed since. Michael Mccann, SI.com, "How Michael Jordan Could Become Connected to Zion Williamson's Lawsuit," 2 Aug. 2019 Uncertain future for Sanders campaign after underwhelming Super Tuesday performance by Joseph Simonson Subscribe here to get all the latest headlines sent right to your inbox. Washington Examiner Staff, Washington Examiner, "Top Stories: March 4, 2020," 4 Mar. 2020 Despite turning in a strong sophomore season, Carr is far from a lock to get drafted in the first round, particularly after underwhelming at the combine last month. Chris Johnson, SI.com, "The Schools That Won and Lost in the NBA Draft's Biggest Decisions," 31 May 2018

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

1934, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for underwhelm

under + overwhelm

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Time Traveler for underwhelm

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The first known use of underwhelm was in 1934

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Cite this Entry

“Underwhelm.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/underwhelm. Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of underwhelm

somewhat humorous : to fail to impress (someone)

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Britannica English: Translation of underwhelm for Arabic Speakers

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