tending to disturb or upset: an upsetting experience.

Origin of upsetting

First recorded in 1870–75; upset + -ing2


[verb, adjective uhp-set; noun uhp-set]

verb (used with object), up·set, up·set·ting.

to overturn: to upset a pitcher of milk.
to disturb mentally or emotionally; perturb: The incident upset her.
to disturb or derange completely; put out of order; throw into disorder: to upset a system; to upset a mechanism; to upset an apartment.
to disturb physically: It upset his stomach.
to defeat or overthrow an opponent that is considered more formidable, as in war, politics, or sports.
Metalworking. to thicken the end of (a piece of heated metal) by hammering on the end against the length of the piece.

verb (used without object), up·set, up·set·ting.

to become upset or overturned.


an upsetting or instance of being upset; overturn; overthrow.
the defeat of a person, team, etc., that is considered more formidable.
a nervous, irritable state of mind.
a disordered or confused arrangement.
  1. a tool used for upsetting.
  2. something that is upset, as a bar end.


overturned: an upset milk pail.
disordered; disorganized: The house is upset.
distressed; disturbed: She had an upset stomach. He is emotionally upset.
Archaic. raised up.

Origin of upset

1300–50; Middle English: raised up; see up-, set
Related formsup·set·ta·ble, adjectiveup·set·ter, nounup·set·ting·ly, adverbun·up·set, adjectiveun·up·set·ta·ble, adjective

Synonyms for upset

1. Upset, capsize, overturn imply a change from an upright or other stable position to a prostrate one. Upset is a familiar word, applied to simple, everyday actions: to upset a table, a glass of water. Capsize is applied especially to the upsetting of a boat or other vessel: to capsize a canoe. Overturn usually suggests violence in upsetting something supposedly stable: The earthquake overturned houses. All three are used figuratively, also: to upset the stock market; to capsize a plan; to overturn a government. 2. unnerve, disconcert, fluster. 5. depose, displace. 10. perturbation, disturbance. 11. mess. 15. disconcerted, agitated, perturbed, annoyed.

Antonyms for upset

2, 3. steady. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for upsetting

Contemporary Examples of upsetting

Historical Examples of upsetting

  • This upsetting of her plans and hopes worried Thankful not a little.

    Thankful's Inheritance

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • They keep 'phoning and telegraphing and upsetting things generally.

    The Rise of Roscoe Paine

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • This pressure of interrogation was upsetting the restraint he was putting on himself.

  • You understand that nothing is more disturbing than the upsetting of a preconceived idea.


    Joseph Conrad

  • What I feared was a shrill note escaping me involuntarily and upsetting my balance.

    The Shadow-Line

    Joseph Conrad

British Dictionary definitions for upsetting



metallurgy the process of hammering the end of a heated bar of metal so that its width is increased locally, as in the manufacture of bolts


verb (ʌpˈsɛt) -sets, -setting or -set (mainly tr)

(also intr) to tip or be tipped over; overturn, capsize, or spill
to disturb the normal state, course, or stability ofto upset the balance of nature
to disturb mentally or emotionally
to defeat or overthrow, usually unexpectedly
to make physically illseafood always upsets my stomach
to thicken or spread (the end of a bar, rivet, etc) by forging, hammering, or swagging

noun (ˈʌpˌsɛt)

an unexpected defeat or reversal, as in a contest or plans
a disturbance or disorder of the emotions, body, etc
a tool used to upset a bar or rivet; swage
a forging or bar that has been upset in preparation for further processing

adjective (ʌpˈsɛt)

overturned or capsized
emotionally or physically disturbed or distressed
disordered; confused
defeated or overthrown
Derived Formsupsettable, adjectiveupsetter, nounupsetting, adjectiveupsettingly, adverb

Word Origin for upset

C14 (in the sense: to set up, erect; C19 in the sense: to overthrow); related to Middle High German ūfsetzen to put on, Middle Dutch opzetten
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 upsetting



mid-15c., "to set up, fix," from up + set (v.). Cf. Middle Dutch opsetten, German aufsetzen. Modern sense of "overturn, capsize" (1803) is that of obsolete overset. Meaning "to throw into mental discomposure" is from 1805. The noun sense of "overturning of a vehicle or boat" is recorded from 1804.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper