Etymology
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overwhelm (v.)

mid-14c., overwhelmen, "to turn upside down, overthrow, knock over," from over- + Middle English whelmen "to turn upside down" (see whelm). Meaning "to submerge completely" is early 15c. Perhaps the connecting notion is a boat, etc., washed over, and overset, by a big wave. Figurative sense of "to bring to ruin" is attested from 1520s. Related: Overwhelmed; overwhelming; overwhelmingly.

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Definitions of overwhelm

overwhelm (v.)
charge someone with too many tasks;
Synonyms: deluge / flood out
overwhelm (v.)
cover completely or make imperceptible;
Synonyms: submerge / drown
overwhelm (v.)
overcome by superior force;
Synonyms: overpower / overmaster
overwhelm (v.)
overcome, as with emotions or perceptual stimuli;
Synonyms: overpower / sweep over / whelm / overcome / overtake
From wordnet.princeton.edu