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  1. abounding or swarming with something, as with people: We elbowed our way through the teeming station.
  2. prolific or fertile.

Origin of teeming1

First recorded in 1525–35; teem1 + -ing2
Related formsteem·ing·ly, adverbteem·ing·ness, noun


  1. falling in torrents: a teeming rain.

Origin of teeming2

First recorded in 1685–95; teem2 + -ing2


verb (used without object)
  1. to abound or swarm; be prolific or fertile (usually followed by with).
  2. Obsolete. to be or become pregnant; bring forth young.
verb (used with object)
  1. Obsolete. to produce (offspring).

Origin of teem1

before 900; Middle English temen, Old English tēman, tīeman to produce (offspring), derivative of tēam team
Related formsteem·er, noun


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1. overflow, brim, overrun, bristle.


verb (used with or without object)
  1. to empty or pour out; discharge.

Origin of teem2

1250–1300; Middle English temen < Old Norse tæma to empty, derivative of tōmr empty, cognate with Old English tōm free from
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for teeming

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • For me she was only an incident in this teeming radiant life.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

  • They are all gone now, but then they were humming and teeming with work.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

  • She was aware for the first time of the teeming horrors of life.

    A Spirit in Prison

    Robert Hichens

  • Jeter and Eyer both understood the thoughts which were teeming in Kress' brain.

  • Town or country, it's all the same—the air chokes me, it's teeming with moral bacilli.

    Audrey Craven

    May Sinclair

British Dictionary definitions for teeming


  1. (intr usually foll by with) to be prolific or abundant (in); abound (in)
  2. obsolete to bring forth (young)

Word Origin

Old English tēman to produce offspring; related to West Saxon tīeman; see team


  1. (intr; often foll by down or with rain) to pour in torrentsit's teeming down
  2. (tr) to pour or empty out
Derived Formsteemer, noun

Word Origin

C15 temen to empty, from Old Norse tœma; related to Old English tōm, Old High German zuomīg empty
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

Word Origin and History for teeming


"swarming," 1715, present participle adjective from teem (v.1).



"abound, swarm," Old English teman (Mercian), tieman (West Saxon) "give birth to, produce," from Proto-Germanic *taumijanan, from PIE *deuk- "to lead" (see duke (n.)). Related to team in its now-obsolete Old English sense of "family, brood of young animals." The meaning "be fertile, abound, swarm" is first recorded 1590s. Related: Teemed; teeming.



"to flow copiously," c.1300, from Old Norse toema "to empty," from tomr "empty," cognate with Old English tom "empty." The original notion is of "to empty a vessel," thus "to pour out." Related: Teemed; teeming.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper