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overwhelm

[oh-ver-hwelm, -welm] /ˌoʊ vərˈʰwɛlm, -ˈwɛlm/
verb (used with object)
1.
to overcome completely in mind or feeling:
overwhelmed by remorse.
2.
to overpower or overcome, especially with superior forces; destroy; crush:
Roman troops were overwhelmed by barbarians.
3.
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.
4.
to load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything:
a child overwhelmed with presents; to overwhelm someone with questions.
5.
to overthrow.
Origin of overwhelm
1300-1350
Middle English word dating back to 1300-50; See origin at over-, whelm
Related forms
unoverwhelmed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for overwhelm
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • As for Garson, once again the surge of feeling threatened to overwhelm his self-control.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • His intention was not to overwhelm his wife with bitter reproaches.

    The Secret Agent Joseph Conrad
  • Powerful tribes, like the Romans, Saxons and Normans, have tried to overwhelm them.

    Welsh Fairy Tales William Elliott Griffis
  • We should indeed survey and prepare for danger, but we should never suffer it to overwhelm us.

    Imogen William Godwin
  • The mud of those greasy streets had risen up all around to overwhelm him!

British Dictionary definitions for overwhelm

overwhelm

/ˌəʊvəˈwɛlm/
verb (transitive)
1.
to overpower the thoughts, emotions, or senses of
2.
to overcome with irresistible force
3.
to overcome, as with a profusion or concentration of something
4.
to cover over or bury completely
5.
to weigh or rest upon overpoweringly
6.
(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
v.

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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