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

adj.mid-15c., past participle adjective from overwhelm. 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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