underwhelm

play
verb un·der·whelm \ˌən-dər-ˈhwelm, -ˈwelm\

Definition of underwhelm

  1. transitive verb
  2. :  to fail to impress or stimulate the movie underwhelmed most reviewers

underwhelm was our Word of the Day on 10/30/2015. Hear the podcast!

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.

Origin and Etymology of underwhelm

under + overwhelm


First Known Use: 1934


UNDERWHELM Defined for English Language Learners

underwhelm

play
verb un·der·whelm \ˌən-dər-ˈhwelm, -ˈwelm\

Definition of underwhelm for English Language Learners

  • : to fail to impress (someone)


Learn More about underwhelm


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up underwhelm? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

to link together in a series or chain

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • winning-words-from-the-national-spelling-bee-logo
  • Which is the correct spelling of the winning word from 1988?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!