\ ˈ(h)welm How to pronounce whelm (audio) \
whelmed; whelming; whelms

Definition of whelm

transitive verb

1 : to turn (something, such as a dish or vessel) upside down usually to cover something : cover or engulf completely with usually disastrous effect
2 : to overcome in thought or feeling : overwhelm whelmed with a rush of joy— G. A. Wagner

intransitive verb

: to pass or go over something so as to bury or submerge it

Did you know?

In the film comedy Ten Things I Hate About You (1999), the character Chastity Church asks, "I know you can be underwhelmed and you can be overwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?" The answer, Chastity, is yes. Contemporary writers sometimes use whelm to denote a middle stage between underwhelm and overwhelm. But that's not how whelm has traditionally been used. Whelm and overwhelm have been with us since Middle English (when they were whelmen and overwhelmen), and throughout the years their meanings have largely overlapped. Both words early on meant "to overturn," for example, and both have also come to mean "to overpower in thought or feeling." After folks started using a third word, underwhelmed, for "unimpressed," whelmed began popping up with the meaning "moderately impressed."

Examples of whelm in a Sentence

the news so whelmed them that they were stunned into silence
Recent Examples on the Web This result should be a wake-up call for Emery and his team, with Arsenal being criticised heavily in the media after yet another under-whelming performance. SI.com, 22 Oct. 2019 Its reputation is built on the backs of 3-series gone by, as this is the first ever 3 to merely whelm us. Alexander Stoklosa, Car and Driver, 26 July 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'whelm.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of whelm

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

History and Etymology for whelm

Middle English

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

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Dictionary Entries Near whelm

whelk tingle



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Cite this Entry

“Whelm.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whelm. Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on whelm

Nglish: Translation of whelm for Spanish Speakers


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