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[oh-ver-hwelm, -welm] /ˌoʊ vərˈʰwɛlm, -ˈwɛlm/
verb (used with object)
to overcome completely in mind or feeling:
overwhelmed by remorse.
to overpower or overcome, especially with superior forces; destroy; crush:
Roman troops were overwhelmed by barbarians.
to cover or bury beneath a mass of something, as floodwaters, debris, or an avalanche; submerge:
Lava from erupting Vesuvius overwhelmed the city of Pompeii.
to load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything:
a child overwhelmed with presents; to overwhelm someone with questions.
to overthrow.
Origin of overwhelm
1300-50; Middle English; see over-, whelm
Related forms
unoverwhelmed, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for overwhelm
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • My dear Miss Holland, he answered gratefully, you overwhelm me with your kindness.

    The Fall of a Nation Thomas Dixon
  • As for Garson, once again the surge of feeling threatened to overwhelm his self-control.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • He traveled over the route taken by Xerxes' army when it swept down to overwhelm Greece.

    The Bible Story Rev. Newton Marshall Hall
  • We should indeed survey and prepare for danger, but we should never suffer it to overwhelm us.

    Imogen William Godwin
  • People stood instinctively out of her way, as before some rushing force which might overwhelm them.

    Jane Field Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
British Dictionary definitions for overwhelm


verb (transitive)
to overpower the thoughts, emotions, or senses of
to overcome with irresistible force
to overcome, as with a profusion or concentration of something
to cover over or bury completely
to weigh or rest upon overpoweringly
(archaic) to overturn
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for overwhelm

early 14c., "to turn upside down, to overthrow," from over- + Middle English whelmen "to turn upside down" (see whelm). Meaning "to submerge completely" is mid-15c. Perhaps the connecting notion is a boat, etc., washed over, and overset, by a big wave. Figurative sense of "to bring to ruin" is attested from 1520s. Related: Overwhelmed; overwhelming; overwhelmingly.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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