[hwelm, welm]

verb (used with object)

to submerge; engulf.
to overcome utterly; overwhelm: whelmed by misfortune.

verb (used without object)

to roll or surge over something, as in becoming submerged.

Origin of whelm

1250–1300; Middle English whelme, apparently blend of dial. whelve (Old English gehwelfan to bend over) and helm2 (v.) (Old English helmian to cover)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for whelm

Historical Examples of whelm

  • He wanted to whelm his senses in their perfume, and closed his eyes.

    Five Tales

    John Galsworthy

  • Why whelm they that light under a bushel which ought to stand on a candlestick?

  • To acquire the reputation of a great warrior, he was willing to whelm provinces in blood.

    The Empire of Russia

    John S. C. Abbott

  • The Scots were riding forward to whelm him when Brian's men drove down with a wild yell and smote the length of their flank.

    Nuala O'Malley

    H. Bedford-Jones

  • That canst not lift thy head above the waves Which whelm and sink thee down!

British Dictionary definitions for whelm


verb (tr) archaic

to engulf entirely with or as if with water
another word for overwhelm

Word Origin for whelm

C13: whelmen to turn over, of uncertain origin
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 whelm

c.1300, probably from a parallel form of Old English -hwielfan (West Saxon), -hwelfan (Mercian), in ahwelfan "cover over;" probably altered by association with Old English helmian "to cover" (see helmet).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper