over·​come ˌō-vər-ˈkəm How to pronounce overcome (audio)
overcame ˌō-vər-ˈkām How to pronounce overcome (audio) ; overcome; overcoming

transitive verb

: to get the better of : surmount
overcome difficulties
They overcame the enemy.
: overwhelm
were overcome by the heat and smoke

intransitive verb

: to gain the superiority : win
strong in the faith that truth would overcome
Choose the Right Synonym for overcome

conquer, vanquish, defeat, subdue, reduce, overcome, overthrow mean to get the better of by force or strategy.

conquer implies gaining mastery of.

Caesar conquered Gaul

vanquish implies a complete overpowering.

vanquished the enemy and ended the war

defeat does not imply the finality or completeness of vanquish which it otherwise equals.

the Confederates defeated the Union forces at Manassas

subdue implies a defeating and suppression.

subdued the native tribes after years of fighting

reduce implies a forcing to capitulate or surrender.

the city was reduced after a month-long siege

overcome suggests getting the better of with difficulty or after hard struggle.

overcame a host of bureaucratic roadblocks

overthrow stresses the bringing down or destruction of existing power.

violently overthrew the old regime

Examples of overcome in a Sentence

After a tough battle, they overcame the enemy. a story about overcoming adversity She overcame a leg injury and is back running again.
Recent Examples on the Web Advertisement Ham’s panicked lineup experimentation and foolish substitutions were hurdles that the players were unable to overcome despite their laudable efforts. Los Angeles Times, 11 May 2024 Any advice on how to overcome these feelings of being a third wheel would be welcomed. Harriette Cole, The Mercury News, 10 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for overcome 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'overcome.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Old English ofercuman, from ofer over + cuman to come

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of overcome was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near overcome

Cite this Entry

“Overcome.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/overcome. Accessed 24 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


over·​come ˌō-vər-ˈkəm How to pronounce overcome (audio)
overcame -ˈkām How to pronounce overcome (audio) ; overcome; overcoming
: to gain an advantage or victory over
overcome an enemy
: to make helpless or exhausted
was overcome by gas

More from Merriam-Webster on overcome

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