verb (used with object)

  1. to overcome completely in mind or feeling: overwhelmed by remorse.
  2. to overpower or overcome, especially with superior forces; destroy; crush: Roman troops were overwhelmed by barbarians.
  3. to cover or bury beneath a mass of something, as floodwaters, debris, or an avalanche; submerge: Lava from erupting Vesuvius overwhelmed the city of Pompeii.
  4. to load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything: a child overwhelmed with presents; to overwhelm someone with questions.
  5. to overthrow.

verb (tr)

  1. to overpower the thoughts, emotions, or senses of
  2. to overcome with irresistible force
  3. to overcome, as with a profusion or concentration of something
  4. to cover over or bury completely
  5. to weigh or rest upon overpoweringly
  6. archaic to overturn

v.early 14c., “to turn upside down, to overthrow,” from over- + Middle English whelmen “to turn upside down” (see whelm). Meaning “to submerge completely” is mid-15c. Perhaps the connecting notion is a boat, etc., washed over, and overset, by a big wave. Figurative sense of “to bring to ruin” is attested from 1520s. Related: Overwhelmed; overwhelming; overwhelmingly.

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