verb (used without object)

to roll, toss, or heave, as waves or the sea.
to roll, writhe, or tumble about; wallow, as animals (often followed by about): pigs weltering about happily in the mud.
to lie bathed in or be drenched in something, especially blood.
to become deeply or extensively involved, associated, entangled, etc.: to welter in setbacks, confusion, and despair.


Origin of welter

1250–1300; Middle English, frequentative (see -er6) of welten to roll, Old English weltan; cognate with Middle Dutch welteren, Low German weltern to roll

Synonyms for welter




Informal. a welterweight boxer or wrestler.


(of a steeplechase or hurdle race) pertaining to, or noting a race in which the horses bear welterweights.

Origin of welter

First recorded in 1785–95; welt + -er1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for welter

jumble, turmoil, tumble, toss, grovel, uproar, confusion, overturn, roll

Examples from the Web for welter

Contemporary Examples of welter

Historical Examples of welter

  • Jon Venex plunged through the window in a welter of flying glass.

    The Velvet Glove

    Harry Harrison

  • Beardsley stood numbly for a moment, struggling against a welter of panic.

  • Of the only effective truth in the welter of silly lies that deceived you so easily?


    Joseph Conrad

  • Here her speech was lost while she delved head first into the welter.

    Miss Pat at School

    Pemberton Ginther

  • He could see nothing but vanity back of him and a welter of cost ahead.

    In a Little Town

    Rupert Hughes

British Dictionary definitions for welter


verb (intr)

to roll about, writhe, or wallow
(esp of the sea) to surge, heave, or toss
to lie drenched in a liquid, esp blood


a rolling motion, as of the sea
a confused mass; jumble

Word Origin for welter

C13: from Middle Low German, Middle Dutch weltern; related to Old High German walzan, welzen to roll
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 welter

"to roll or twist," c.1300, from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German welteren "to roll," from Proto-Germanic *waltijanan (cf. Old English wieltan, Old Norse velta, Old High German walzan "to turn, revolve," German wälzen "to roll," Gothic waltjan "to roll"), from PIE root *wel- "to turn, revolve" (see volvox). The noun meaning "confused mass" is first recorded 1851.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper