Etymology
Advertisement

Words related to overwhelm

over- 

word-forming element meaning variously "above; highest; across; higher in power or authority; too much; above normal; outer; beyond in time, too long," from Old English ofer (from PIE root *uper "over"). Over and its Germanic relations were widely used as prefixes, and sometimes could be used with negative force. This is rare in Modern English, but compare Gothic ufarmunnon "to forget," ufar-swaran "to swear falsely;" Old English ofercræft "fraud."

In some of its uses, moreover, over is a movable element, which can be prefixed at will to almost any verb or adjective of suitable sense, as freely as an adjective can be placed before a substantive or an adverb before an adjective. [OED]

Among the old words not now existing are Old English oferlufu (Middle English oferlufe), literally "over-love," hence "excessive or immoderate love." Over- in Middle English also could carry a sense of "too little, below normal," as in over-lyght "of too little weight" (c. 1400), overlitel "too small" (mid-14c.), overshort, etc.

Advertisement
whelm (v.)

early 14c., probably from a parallel form of Old English -hwielfan (West Saxon), -hwelfan (Mercian), in ahwelfan "cover over;" probably altered by association with Old English helmian "to cover," from Proto-Germanic *hwalbjan, from PIE *kuolp- "to bend, turn" (see gulf (n.)).

overwhelmed (adj.)

mid-15c., "completely submerged or swamped," past-participle adjective from overwhelm. Figurative use by 1520s. Related: Overwhelmedness.

underwhelm (v.)
1953 (implied in underwhelming), a facetious play on overwhelm, with under. Related: Underwhelmed; underwhelmingly.