[adverb oh-ver-hed; adjective, noun oh-ver-hed]
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  1. over one's head; aloft; up in the air or sky, especially near the zenith: There was a cloud overhead.
  2. so as to be completely submerged or deeply involved: to plunge overhead in water; to sink overhead in debt.
  1. situated, operating, or passing above, aloft, or over the head: an overhead sprinkler system.
  2. of or relating to the general cost of running a business: overhead expenses; an overhead charge.
  1. the general, fixed cost of running a business, as rent, lighting, and heating expenses, which cannot be charged or attributed to a specific product or part of the work operation.
  2. Accounting. that part of manufacturing costs for which cost per unit produced is not readily assignable.
  3. (in a hoistway) the distance between the last floor level served and the beam supporting the hoisting sheaves or machinery.
  4. (in racket sports) a stroke in which the ball or shuttlecock is hit with a downward motion from above the head; smash.
  5. an overhead compartment, shelf, etc.: Pillows are in the overhead above each passenger's seat.
  6. Also called overhead shot. Movies, Television. a shot in which the camera is positioned above the actors, especially directly overhead.
  7. a ceiling light in a room: Turn off the overheads when you leave.
  8. Also called overhead projector. a projector capable of projecting images above and behind the person operating it, thus allowing a lecturer or speaker to remain facing the audience while using it.
  9. Also called overhead projection. a picture or image projected in this manner: a lecture enhanced with overheads.

Origin of overhead

late Middle English word dating back to 1425–75; see origin at over-, head
Related formsnon·o·ver·head, noun, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for overhead


adjective (ˈəʊvəˌhɛd)
  1. situated or operating above head height or some other reference level
  2. (prenominal) inclusivethe overhead price included meals
adverb (ˌəʊvəˈhɛd)
  1. over or above head height, esp in the sky
noun (ˈəʊvəˌhɛd)
    1. a stroke in racket games played from above head height
    2. (as modifier)an overhead smash
  1. nautical the interior lining above one's head below decks in a vessel
  2. short for overhead door
  3. (modifier) of, concerned with, or resulting from overheadsoverhead costs
See also overheads
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 overhead

1530s, "above one's head" (adv.), from over- + head. The adjective is attested from 1874. As a noun, short for overhead costs, etc., it is attested from 1914.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

overhead in Culture


All costs of running a business other than wages paid to production workers or payments for raw material to be used in production. Overhead includes the cost of renting or leasing a store in which business is transacted, the cost of heating a factory, and similar expenses.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.