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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
Middle English word dating back to 1300-50; See origin at over-, whelm
Related forms
unoverwhelmed, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for overwhelmed
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She turned from the window, overwhelmed by the desire for instant flight.

    Find the Woman Arthur Somers Roche
  • For a time, he had thought the caravan guard was going to be overwhelmed.

    Millennium Everett B. Cole
  • I usually found him overwhelmed with place-hunters; for in France political mendicancy exists under every form of government.

  • Every one of the models was overwhelmed and engulfed at the same moment.

    The World Peril of 1910 George Griffith
  • The argument was a telling one, and the princess was overwhelmed by it, and from that moment her defeat was assured.

    Louise de la Valliere Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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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