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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 overwhelmed
  • Everyone is overwhelmed, including Callie, who can't talk or cry or even figure out what she's feeling.
  • We are overwhelmed not only by the volume of submissions but by their quality.
  • The relief effort is underprepared, underfunded and overwhelmed.
  • The teachers are overwhelmed -- not only with the teaching they have to do but with the clerical work they have to do.
  • So we can't even imagine how overwhelmed Jamestown must feel right now, prepping for its four-hundredth year.
  • The enemy will see themselves surrounded, overwhelmed, and be compelled to yield.
  • The flood overwhelmed the site's servers, making it inaccessible to the public.
  • Marines deployed in Iraq have been overwhelmed with the amount of communications equipment they are expected to use.
  • The faction that was originally attacking would be overwhelmed and eradicated.
  • Roberta does her best to help, but she feels overwhelmed.
British Dictionary definitions for overwhelmed


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 overwhelmed

mid-15c., past participle adjective from 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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