a large, powerful, or violent whirlpool.
a restless, disordered, or tumultuous state of affairs: the maelstrom of early morning traffic.
(initial capital letter) a famous hazardous whirlpool off the NW coast of Norway.

1550–60 for def 3; < early Dutch maelstroom, now spelling maalstroom, representing mal(en) to grind + stroom stream. See meal2, stream

2. tumult, pandemonium, bedlam. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
maelstrom (ˈmeɪlstrəʊm)
1.  a large powerful whirlpool
2.  any turbulent confusion
[C17: from obsolete Dutch maelstroom, from malen to grind, whirl round + stroomstream]

Maelstrom (ˈmeɪlstrəʊm)
a strong tidal current in a restricted channel in the Lofoten Islands off the NW coast of Norway

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1682 (Hakluyt has Malestrand, c.1560), "whirlpool off the northwest coast of Norway," from Dan. malstrøm (1673), from Du. Maelstrom, lit. "grinding-stream," from malen "to grind" (see meal) + stroom "stream" (see stream). Name given by Du.
cartographers (e.g. Mercator, 1595). Perhaps originally from Færoic mal(u)streymur. Popularized as a synonym for "whirlpool" c.1841.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


marine channel and strong tidal current of the Norwegian Sea, in the Lofoten islands, northern Norway. Flowing between the islands of Moskenesoya (north) and Mosken (south), it has a treacherous current. About 5 miles (8 km) wide, alternating in flow between the open sea on the west and Vest Fjord on the east, the current may reach a speed of 7 miles (11 km) per hour with the changing of the tides, but the sea becomes calm in the moments when the tide switches direction. Strong local winds make the passage additionally dangerous. The word maelstrom entered the English language via the fiction of the French novelist Jules Verne and the American short-story writer Edgar Allan Poe, who exaggerated the current of the channel into a great whirlpool; the word in English designates a large, fatal whirlpool, engulfing vessels and men, or a figurative application of the idea.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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