[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 whelmed

Historical Examples of whelmed

  • Her crests and peaks, her vales and plains, lie white and whelmed with snow.

  • The next instant he was whelmed in the avalanche of her words.

    His Unquiet Ghost

    Charles Egbert Craddock (AKA Mary Noailles Murfree)

  • In another moment Bax was whelmed in spray and knee-deep in rushing water.

    The Lifeboat

    R.M. Ballantyne

  • The other or eastern end of the isle was whelmed in the blackest shade.

  • The rider in that cariole is so whelmed in furs as to be absolutely invisible.

    The Big Otter

    R.M. Ballantyne

British Dictionary definitions for whelmed


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 whelmed



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