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See also: maelström and maëlstrom



Originally the name of a giant whirlpool supposed to exist off the west coast of Norway in the Arctic Ocean which was said to destroy all ships that came close to it, borrowed from early modern Dutch maelstrom (whirlpool) (obsolete) (modern Dutch maalstroom), from malen (to whirl around; to grind) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *melh₂- (to crush, grind)) + stroom (stream; river; current or flow of water or other liquid) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *srew- (to flow, stream)).[1] The English word is cognate with Danish malstrøm, German Mahlstrom.



maelstrom (plural maelstroms)

  1. A large and violent whirlpool.
    • 2001 April 26, Eoin Colfer, “Troll”, in Artemis Fowl, New York, N.Y.; Toronto, Ont.: Scholastic, published September 2001, →ISBN, page 212:
      A hulking shape burst through the doorway and hurtled down the corridor, leaving a maelstrom of air currents in his wake.
  2. (figuratively) A chaotic or turbulent situation.
    • 1831, Thomas Carlyle, “Characteristics”, in Sartor Resartus: The Life and Opinions of Herr Teufelsdröckh. [], London: Chapman and Hall, [], OCLC 614372740, book first, page 22:
      It was of Jean Paul's doing: some single billow in that vast World-Mahlstrom of Humour, with its heaven-kissing coruscations, which is now, alas, all congealed in the frost of death!
    • 2012, Andrew Martin, Underground Overground: A Passenger’s History of the Tube, London: Profile Books, →ISBN, page 80:
      The terminal station, Richmond, is managed by South West Trains, heirs to the London & South Western Railway, and here the District fades into a railway maelstrom, since Richmond is not only on the Waterloo-Reading line but is also the westerly terminus of the London Overground.
    • 2019 May 5, Danette Chavez, “Campaigns are Waged On and Off the Game Of Thrones Battlefield (Newbies)”, in The A.V. Club[1], archived from the original on 28 January 2021:
      Setting our sights back on King’s Landing, where the Last War will be waged, makes a lot of sense, even if it does feel a bit anticlimactic after last week’s deadly, blustery maelstrom.

Alternative forms[edit]




  1. ^ maelstrom, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2020; “maelstrom, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.

Further reading[edit]