Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To cover with water; submerge.
  • transitive v. To overwhelm.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To cover; to submerge; to engulf; to bury.
  • v. To overcome with emotion.
  • v. To throw (something) over a thing so as to cover it.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To cover with water or other fluid; to cover by immersion in something that envelops on all sides; to overwhelm; to ingulf.
  • transitive v. Fig.: To cover completely, as if with water; to immerse; to overcome.
  • transitive v. To throw (something) over a thing so as to cover it.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To throw over so as to cover.
  • To engulf; submerge; cover by immersion in something that envelops on all sides; overwhelm.
  • Hence, to crush, ruin, or destroy by some sudden overpowering disaster.
  • To pass or roll over so as to cover or submerge.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. overcome, as with emotions or perceptual stimuli

Etymologies

Middle English whelmen, to overturn, probably alteration (influenced by helmen, to cover) of whelven, from Old English -hwelfan (as in āhwelfan, to cover over).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English whelmen ("to turn over, capsize; make an arch cover; experience a reversal"), akin to Middle English whelven ("to cover over, bury; invert; bring to ruin, to move by rolling"), akin to Old English ahwelfan, ahwylfan ("to cast down, cover over"), Old English helmian ("to cover"), akin to Old Saxon bihwelbian, Dutch welven ("to arch") German wölben, Old High German welben, Icelandic hvelfa ("to overturn; compare"), Ancient Greek κόλπος (kolpos, "bosom, hollow, gulf"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • Oh, never this whelming east wind swells
    But it seems like the sea's return
    To the ancient lands where it left the shells
    Before the age of the fern;
    And it seems like the time when after doubt
    Our love came back amain.
    Oh, come forth into the storm and rout
    And be my love in the rain.

    - Robert Frost, 'A Line-Storm Song'.

    August 8, 2009

  • I am floorwhelmed by your suggestion.

    February 3, 2009

  • I have always used whelm. If one needs to say more she can say floored.

    February 3, 2009

  • Thanks for the reference! I absolutely couldn't remember where it was from. Ok, 1834 is not archaic, but so many phrases are written into church songs, prayers, etc. and then petrified. For example, modern writers don't use 'thee' or 'thou', but we read them in church writings all the time (well, some churches). I can't imagine many people today using 'whelm', so I think of it as fossilized.

    That being said, it would be cool to bring it back.

    May 25, 2007

  • That's from the hymn "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand." Archaic?

    May 24, 2007

  • I think I've heard of it used to describe "a whelming flood." Probably a frozen fragment of language rather than an actual, modern word.

    May 24, 2007

  • Chastity: I know you can be underwhelmed, and you can be overwhelmed, but can you ever just be, like, whelmed?

    Bianca: I think you can in Europe.

    -10 Things I Hate About You

    May 24, 2007

  • Well, you could adequatewhelm, I suppose, but that's kind of...uh...what's the word I'm looking for? Underwhelming. Yes. That's it.

    May 24, 2007

  • What if I want to increase my personal whelm factor without going over? Can I superwhelm? I'd hate to exceed my limits of whelmnation but wouldn't want to settle for mediocre either.

    May 24, 2007

  • Huh. Interesting. So saying "overwhelm" may be to commit a word-crime similar to that of "irregardless"? Frightening.

    May 24, 2007

  • Apparently a person can, in fact, be "whelmed" without qualifier. Except it means the same thing as being overwhelmed. Hmm. Who knew?

    May 23, 2007