verb (used with object)

  1. to cause to work too hard, too much, or too long; weary or exhaust with work (often used reflexively): Don’t overwork yourself on that new job.
  2. to work up, stir up, or excite excessively: to overwork a mob to the verge of frenzy.
  3. to employ or elaborate to excess: an appeal for sympathy that has been overworked by many speakers.
  4. to work or decorate all over; decorate the surface of: white limestone overworked with inscriptions.

verb (used without object)

  1. to work too hard, too much, or too long; work to excess: You look as though you’ve been overworking.


  1. work beyond one’s strength or capacity.
  2. extra or excessive work.

verb (ˌəʊvəˈwɜːk) (mainly tr)

  1. (also intr) to work or cause to work too hard or too long
  2. to use too muchto overwork an excuse
  3. to decorate the surface of
  4. to work up

noun (ˈəʊvəˌwɜːk)

  1. excessive or excessively tiring work

v.“to cause to work too hard,” 1520s, from over- + work (v.). Old English oferwyrcan meant “to work all over,” i.e. “to decorate the whole surface of.” Related: Overworked; overworking. n.“work beyond a person’s strength,” 1819; see overwork (v.). Old English oferweorc meant “a superstructure, sarcophagus, tomb.”

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