"to reach, overtake," also "to conquer, prevail over," from ofer
"over" + cuman
"to come" (see come
). A common Gmc. compound (cf. M.Du. overkomen,
). In ref. to mental or chemical force, "to overwhelm, render helpless," it is in late O.E. Meaning "to surmount" (a difficulty or obstacle) is from c.1200. The Civil Rights anthem "We Shall Overcome" was put together c.1950s from lyrics from Charles Tindley's spiritual "I'll Overcome Some Day" (1901), and melody from pre-Civil War spiritual "No More Auction Block for Me."