\ 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

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Did You Know?

It is not overwhelming and it is not underwhelming. You leave the production feeling merely whelmed. Thus wrote Michael Phillips in the Los Angeles Times, February 6, 2001. Contemporary writers like Philips 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." Around 1950, however, folks started using a third word, "underwhelmed," for "unimpressed," and lately "whelmed" has been 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, "Ian Wright Hits Out at Unai Emery as Arsenal Slump to Shock Defeat to Sheffield United," 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, "2017 BMW 3-series," 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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Cite this Entry

“Whelm.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whelm. Accessed 12 Jul. 2020.

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More from Merriam-Webster on whelm

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for whelm

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with whelm

Nglish: Translation of whelm for Spanish Speakers

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