[oh-ver-rawt, oh-ver-]


extremely or excessively excited or agitated: to become overwrought on hearing bad news; an overwrought personality.
elaborated to excess; excessively complex or ornate: written in a florid, overwrought style.
Archaic. wearied or exhausted by overwork.

Origin of overwrought

First recorded in 1660–70; over- + wrought

Synonyms for overwrought

1. overexcited, worked up, wrought up, distracted, frantic.


[verb oh-ver-wurk; noun oh-ver-wurk]

verb (used with object)

to cause to work too hard, too much, or too long; weary or exhaust with work (often used reflexively): Don't overwork yourself on that new job.
to work up, stir up, or excite excessively: to overwork a mob to the verge of frenzy.
to employ or elaborate to excess: an appeal for sympathy that has been overworked by many speakers.
to work or decorate all over; decorate the surface of: white limestone overworked with inscriptions.

verb (used without object)

to work too hard, too much, or too long; work to excess: You look as though you've been overworking.


work beyond one's strength or capacity.
extra or excessive work.

Origin of overwork

before 1000; Old English oferwyrcan. See over-, work
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for overwrought

Contemporary Examples of overwrought

Historical Examples of overwrought

  • He remembered that she was overwrought, and made no answer to her complaint.

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

  • So overwrought was she that she even thought of seeking the aid old Joe had proffered.

    The Night Riders

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • But that was just a first impression springing from overwrought nerves.

    The Man the Martians Made

    Frank Belknap Long

  • I am nervous and overwrought, but I will regain my self-control.

    The Crevice

    William John Burns and Isabel Ostrander

  • He can not easily believe it to be simply a chimera of an overwrought brain.

    Oswald Langdon

    Carson Jay Lee

British Dictionary definitions for overwrought



full of nervous tension; agitated
too elaborate; fussyan overwrought style
(often postpositive and foll by with) with the surface decorated or adorned


verb (ˌəʊvəˈwɜːk) (mainly tr)

(also intr) to work or cause to work too hard or too long
to use too muchto overwork an excuse
to decorate the surface of
to work up

noun (ˈəʊvəˌwɜːk)

excessive or excessively tiring work
Derived Formsoverworked, adjective
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 overwrought

"worked up to too high a pitch," 1825, literally "over-worked," from over- + wrought. Earlier it meant "exhausted by work" (1660s) as a literal past participle of overwork.



"to cause to work too hard," 1520s, from over- + work (v.). Old English oferwyrcan meant "to work all over," i.e. "to decorate the whole surface of." Related: Overworked; overworking.



"work beyond a person's strength," 1819; see overwork (v.). Old English oferweorc meant "a superstructure, sarcophagus, tomb."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper