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maelstrom

[meyl-struh m] /ˈmeɪl strəm/
noun
1.
a large, powerful, or violent whirlpool.
2.
a restless, disordered, or tumultuous state of affairs:
the maelstrom of early morning traffic.
3.
(initial capital letter) a famous hazardous whirlpool off the NW coast of Norway.
Origin
early Dutch
1550-1560
1550-60 for def 3; < early Dutch maelstroom, now spelling maalstroom, representing mal(en) to grind + stroom stream. See meal2, stream
Synonyms
2. tumult, pandemonium, bedlam.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for maelstrom

maelstrom

/ˈmeɪlstrəʊm/
noun
1.
a large powerful whirlpool
2.
any turbulent confusion
Word Origin
C17: from obsolete Dutch maelstroom, from malen to grind, whirl round + stroomstream

Maelstrom

/ˈmeɪlstrəʊm/
noun
1.
a strong tidal current in a restricted channel in the Lofoten Islands off the NW coast of Norway
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for maelstrom
n.

1680s (Hakluyt, 1560s, has Malestrand), name of a famous whirlpool off the northwest coast of Norway, from Danish malstrøm (1673), from older Dutch Maelstrom (modern maalstroom), literally "grinding-stream," from malen "to grind" (see meal) + stroom "stream" (see stream (n.)). The name was used by Dutch cartographers (e.g. Mercator, 1595). OED says perhaps originally from Færoic mal(u)streymur. Popularized as a synonym for "whirlpool" c.1841, the year of Poe's "A Descent into the Maelstrom."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for maelstrom

Maelstrom

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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