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

  • n. A violent or turbulent situation: caught in the maelstrom of war.
  • n. A whirlpool of extraordinary size or violence.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A large and violent whirlpool.
  • n. Any violent or turbulent situation.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A celebrated whirlpool on the coast of Norway.
  • n. An uncontrollable agitated or confusedly disordered state or situation.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A celebrated whirlpool or violent current in the Arctic ocean, near the western coast of Norway, between the islands Moskenäsö and Mosken, formerly supposed to suck in and destroy everything that approached it at any time, but now known not to be dangerous except under certain conditions.
  • n. Hence Any resistless movement; any influence or passion which makes victims of all who come within its power: as, the maelstrom of fashion or of speculation; the maelstrom of dissipation or of crime.

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

  • n. a powerful circular current of water (usually the result of conflicting tides)


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

Obsolete Dutch : Dutch malen, to grind, whirl (from Middle Dutch; see melə- in Indo-European roots) + Dutch stroom, stream (from Middle Dutch; see sreu- in Indo-European roots).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old Dutch maelstrom, modern Dutch spelling maalstroom. → Danish malstrøm. → English maelstrom. Dutch malen ("to whirl, grind") is from Old Norse mala ("to grind"). Dutch stroom means stream. Compare German Mahlstrom.



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  • From p. 30 of Patrick Leigh Fermor's "A Time to Keep Silence":

    For my hosts, the Abbey was a springboard into eternity; for me a retiring place to write a book and spring more efficiently back into the maelstrom.

    January 21, 2014

  • "in this cruel place your voice above the maelstrom" (Sisters of Mercy: "Marian")

    February 5, 2009

  • The president is about to escalate himself into a full-scale maelstrom.

    Joseph Duemer, Sharp Sand

    December 22, 2006