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[hwelm, welm] /ʰwɛlm, wɛlm/
verb (used with object)
to submerge; engulf.
to overcome utterly; overwhelm:
whelmed by misfortune.
verb (used without object)
to roll or surge over something, as in becoming submerged.
Origin of whelm
1250-1300; Middle English whelme, apparently blend of dial. whelve (Old English gehwelfan to bend over) and helm2 (v.) (Old English helmian to cover) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for whelm
Historical Examples
  • Why whelm they that light under a bushel which ought to stand on a candlestick?

  • He wanted to whelm his senses in their perfume, and closed his eyes.

    Five Tales John Galsworthy
  • The envious billows sidelong swell to whelm my track; let them; but first I pass.

    Moby Dick; or The Whale Herman Melville
  • To acquire the reputation of a great warrior, he was willing to whelm provinces in blood.

    The Empire of Russia John S. C. Abbott
  • That canst not lift thy head above the waves Which whelm and sink thee down!

  • The Scots were riding forward to whelm him when Brian's men drove down with a wild yell and smote the length of their flank.

    Nuala O'Malley H. Bedford-Jones
  • Far be it from the Judge of all the earth to whelm the innocent and guilty in the same destruction!

    The Anti-Slavery Examiner, Omnibus American Anti-Slavery Society
British Dictionary definitions for whelm


verb (transitive) (archaic)
to engulf entirely with or as if with water
another word for overwhelm
Word Origin
C13: whelmen to turn over, of uncertain origin
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 whelm

c.1300, probably from a parallel form of Old English -hwielfan (West Saxon), -hwelfan (Mercian), in ahwelfan "cover over;" probably altered by association with Old English helmian "to cover" (see helmet).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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