wel·​ter | \ ˈwel-tər How to pronounce welter (audio) \
weltered; weltering\ ˈwel-​t(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce welter (audio) \

Definition of welter

 (Entry 1 of 3)

intransitive verb

1a : writhe, toss also : wallow
b : to rise and fall or toss about in or with waves
2 : to become deeply sunk, soaked, or involved
3 : to be in turmoil


noun (1)

Definition of welter (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a state of wild disorder : turmoil
2 : a chaotic mass or jumble a bewildering welter of data


noun (2)

Definition of welter (Entry 3 of 3)

The History of Welter


Welter can be used both as a noun (meaning "turmoil" or "chaos") and a verb. The verb is the older of the two; it has been part of English since at least the 1300s, while the earliest uses of the noun date from the late 1590s. Both noun and verb have roots related to Dutch and Germanic terms meaning "to roll," and both have found a place in historical English literature. The verb helps demonstrate extreme despair in the early Arthurian legend Morte Arthure ("He welterys, he wristeles, he wrynges hys handes!"), and in 1837 Thomas Carlyle used the noun in The French Revolution ("I leave the whole business in a frightful welter: … not one of them understands anything of government").

First Known Use of welter


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun (1)

1596, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

1900, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for welter


Middle English; akin to Middle Dutch welteren to roll, Old High German walzan, Lithuanian volioti, Latin volvere — more at voluble

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The first known use of welter was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Welter.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/welter. Accessed 10 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for welter


wel·​ter | \ ˈwel-tər How to pronounce welter (audio) \

Kids Definition of welter

: a confused jumble He had too much to think about and felt lost in the bewildering welter of his thoughts.— Linda Sue Park, A Single Shard

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