\ ˈhwelm How to pronounce whelm (audio) , ˈwelm\
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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about whelm

Listen to Our Podcast about whelm

Dictionary Entries near whelm



whelk tingle





Statistics for whelm

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for whelm

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

See more words from the same century

More from Merriam-Webster on whelm

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with whelm

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for whelm

Nglish: Translation of whelm for Spanish Speakers

Comments on whelm

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


to fake an opponent out of position

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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