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See also: Drown



From Middle English drownen, drounen, drunen (to drown), of obscure and uncertain origin.

The OED suggests an unattested Old English form *drūnian [1]. Harper 2001 points to Old English druncnian, ġedruncnian (> Middle English drunknen, dronknen (to drown)), "probably influenced" by Old Norse drukkna (cf. Icelandic drukkna, Danish drukne (to drown)) [2]. Funk & Wagnall's has 'of uncertain origin'. It has been theorised (see e.g. ODS) [3] that it may represent a direct loan of Old Norse drukkna, but this is described by the OED as being "on phonetic and other grounds [...] highly improbable" [1], unless one considers the possibility of an unattested variant in Old Norse *drunkna.


  • enPR: droun, IPA(key): /dɹaʊn/, [d̠͡ɹ̠˔ʷaʊn]
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -aʊn


drown (third-person singular simple present drowns, present participle drowning, simple past and past participle drowned)

  1. (intransitive) To die from suffocation while immersed in water or other fluid.
    When I was a baby, I nearly drowned in the bathtub.
    • 1594, William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece,[1]
      Old woes, not infant sorrows, bear them mild;
      Continuance tames the one; the other wild,
      Like an unpractised swimmer plunging still,
      With too much labour drowns for want of skill.
  2. (transitive) To kill by suffocating in water or another liquid.
    The car thief fought with an officer and tried to drown a police dog before being shot while escaping.
    • c. 1590, William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, Act III, Scene 2,[2]
      The pretty-vaulting sea refused to drown me,
      Knowing that thou wouldst have me drown’d on shore,
      With tears as salt as sea, through thy unkindness:
  3. (intransitive) To be flooded: to be inundated with or submerged in (literally) water or (figuratively) other things; to be overwhelmed.
    We are drowning in information but starving for wisdom.
  4. (transitive, figuratively) To inundate, submerge, overwhelm.
    He drowns his sorrows in buckets of chocolate ice cream.
    • 1599, John Davies, Nosce Teipsum, London: John Standish, p. 19,[3]
      Though most men being in sensuall pleasures drownd,
      It seemes their Soules but in the Senses are.
    • c. 1606, William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, Act II, Scene 7,[4]
      Come, thou monarch of the vine,
      Plumpy Bacchus with pink eyne!
      In thy fats our cares be drown’d,
      With thy grapes our hairs be crown’d:
    • 1713, Joseph Addison, Cato, a Tragedy, London: J. Tonson, Act II, Scene 1, p. 23,[5]
      My private Voice is drown’d amid the Senate’s.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Dublin: John Smith, Volume 2, Book 7, Chapter 14, pp. 71-72,[6]
      Unluckily that worthy Officer having, in a literal Sense, taken his Fill of Liquor, had been some Time retired to his Bolster, where he was snoaring so loud, that it was not easy to convey a Noise in at his Ears capable of drowning that which issued from his Nostrils.
  5. (transitive, figuratively, usually passive) To obscure, particularly amid an overwhelming volume of other items.
    The answers intelligence services seek are often drowned in the flood of information they can now gather.

Usage notes[edit]

When using the term figuratively to describe overwhelming sounds, the form drown out is now usually employed.


Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


  1. 1.0 1.1 OED: drown, v. (subscription required)
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2021), “drown”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  3. ^ drukne” in Ordbog over det danske Sprog: oldn. drukkna (eng. drown er laant fra nord.) (in English: Old Norse drukkna (the English drown is a loanword from Old Norse))






  1. Soft mutation of trown.


Welsh mutation
radical soft nasal aspirate
trown drown nhrown thrown
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.