Overwhelm means “give a person too much of something.” If your friend agrees to feed your pet fish while you’re on vacation, don’t overwhelm her with requests by also asking her to do your laundry and wash the dishes.

While it’s easy to be overwhelmed by chores or complaints, it’s also possible to be overwhelmed by good things — if they occur in large quantities. You might enjoy a stack of pancakes for breakfast, but you'd probably find a truckload of pancakes overwhelming. Sometimes people feel overwhelmed by emotion, and this can be a positive or negative experience, depending on the emotion. For example, you might feel overwhelmed by gratitude if your friend takes excellent care of your fish, but overwhelmed with grief if the fish is accidentally flushed in your absence.

Definitions of overwhelm

v cover completely or make imperceptible

drown, submerge
Type of:
cover, spread over
form a cover over

v overcome by superior force

overmaster, overpower
steamroll, steamroller
overwhelm by using great force
Type of:
beat, beat out, crush, shell, trounce, vanquish
come out better in a competition, race, or conflict

v overcome, as with emotions or perceptual stimuli

overcome, overpower, overtake, sweep over, whelm
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overwhelm or overpower
clutch, get hold of, seize
overwhelm with hilarity, pleasure, or admiration
overtake with darkness or night
knock out
overwhelm with admiration
astound or overwhelm, as with shock
hold fast (in a certain state)
Type of:
arouse, elicit, enkindle, evoke, fire, kindle, provoke, raise
call forth (emotions, feelings, and responses)

v charge someone with too many tasks

deluge, flood out
Type of:
burden, charge, saddle
impose a task upon, assign a responsibility to