1 : to turn (something, such as a dish or vessel) upside down usually to cover something : to cover or engulf completely with usually disastrous effect
2 : to overcome in thought or feeling : overwhelm
3 : 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."
The hotel was adequate but we were far from whelmed by the view of the alley and the lack of hot water.
"By the time San Jose annexed the town to expand its sewage-treatment plant in 1968, nature had already begun to reclaim the bayside. The town of 2,500 splintered, rusted and sank as groundwater was over-pumped, sea water rose on all sides and storm surges whelmed the backed-up drains." — Jennifer Wadsworth, The San Jose (California) Inside, 8 Dec. 2016
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
Unscramble the letters to create an adjective that means "overcome with emotion": KMTVEPLER.VIEW THE ANSWER
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