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Origin uncertain.

  • The OED suggests an unattested Old English form *drūnian [1]. Harper 2001 points to Old English druncnian, "probably influenced" by Old Norse drukkna (cf. Danish drukne) [2]. Funk & Wagnall's has Middle English drounen, drūnen, '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].



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.
  2. (transitive) To kill another in this manner.
    The car thief fought with an officer and tried to drown a police dog before being shot while escaping.
  3. (transitive) To flood: to inundate with or submerge in (literally) water or (figuratively) other things.
    We are drowning in information but starving for wisdom.
  4. (transitive, figuratively) To overwhelm in a similar manner.
    He drowns his sorrows in buckets of chocolate ice cream.
    • Sir J. Davies
      most men being in sensual pleasures drowned
    • Addison
      My private voice is drowned amid the senate.
    • 1990, House of Cards, Season 1, Episode 2:
      Penny Guy: Bloody hell, Rog, whadda you want?
      Roger O'Neill: To drown in your arms and hide in yer eyes, darlin'.
  5. (transitive, usually passive) To lose, particularly amid an overwhelming mess 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 usually employed.

Derived terms[edit]



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  1. 1.0 1.1 OED: drown, v. (subscription required)
  2. ^ drown” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary (2001).
  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))