a large, powerful, or violent whirlpool.
a restless, disordered, or tumultuous state of affairs: the maelstrom of early morning traffic.
(initial capital letter) a famous hazardous whirlpool off the NW coast of Norway.

Nearby words

  1. maeander,
  2. maebashi,
  3. maebelle,
  4. maecenas,
  5. mael,
  6. maenad,
  7. maenads,
  8. maera,
  9. maestoso,
  10. maestricht

Origin of maelstrom

1550–60 for def 3; < early Dutch maelstroom, now spelling maalstroom, representing mal(en) to grind + stroom stream. See meal2, stream Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for maelstrom

British Dictionary definitions for maelstrom



a large powerful whirlpool
any turbulent confusion

Word Origin for maelstrom

C17: from obsolete Dutch maelstroom, from malen to grind, whirl round + stroom stream



a strong tidal current in a restricted channel in the Lofoten Islands off the NW coast of Norway
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 maelstrom



1680s (Hakluyt, 1560s, has Malestrand), name of a famous whirlpool off the northwest coast of Norway, from Danish malstrøm (1673), from older Dutch Maelstrom (modern maalstroom), literally "grinding-stream," from malen "to grind" (see meal) + stroom "stream" (see stream (n.)). The name was used by Dutch cartographers (e.g. Mercator, 1595). OED says perhaps originally from Færoic mal(u)streymur. Popularized as a synonym for "whirlpool" c.1841, the year of Poe's "A Descent into the Maelstrom."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper