[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 whelming

Historical Examples of whelming

  • I hear the myriad falsehoods you have told—one whelming confusion.

    A Ladder of Swords

    Gilbert Parker

  • Sanding: The continuance of the metaphor in "higher waves" are "whelming."

    The Vision of Sir Launfal

    James Russell Lowell

  • In their whelming presence Babbitt felt small and insignificant.


    Sinclair Lewis

  • So Torcall the Harper moved into the whelming flood, and he played a wild strange air, like the laughing of a child.

  • The Emperor's lance splintered; he fought with a pole-axe; still even he became sensible of a whelming pressure.

British Dictionary definitions for whelming


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 whelming



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