from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

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

from The Century Dictionary.

  • 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 the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

  • verb overcome, as with emotions or perceptual stimuli


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

[Middle English whelmen, to overturn, probably alteration (influenced by helmen, to cover) of whelven, from Old English -hwelfan (as in āhwelfan, to cover over).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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").


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  • 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

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

    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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

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

    May 24, 2007

  • 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

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

    February 3, 2009

  • I am floorwhelmed by your suggestion.

    February 3, 2009

  • 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