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From Middle English overcomen, from Old English ofercuman (to overcome, subdue, compel, conquer, obtain, attain, reach, overtake), corresponding to over- +‎ come. Cognate with Dutch overkomen (to overcome), German überkommen (to overcome), Danish overkomme (to overcome), Swedish överkomma (to overcome).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˌəʊvəˈkʌm/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˌoʊvɚˈkʌm/
  • (file)


overcome (third-person singular simple present overcomes, present participle overcoming, simple past overcame, past participle overcome)

  1. (transitive) To surmount (a physical or abstract obstacle); to prevail over, to get the better of.
    to overcome enemies in battle
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book II, Canto I”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC, stanza 58:
      But sith this wretched woman ouercome / Of anguish, rather then of crime hath beene,
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, chapter 4, in Moonfleet, London, Toronto, Ont.: Jonathan Cape, published 1934:
      By and by fumes of brandy began to fill the air, and climb to where I lay, overcoming the mouldy smell of decayed wood and the dampness of the green walls.
    • 1960 December, Cecil J. Allen, “Operating a mountain main line: the Bern-Lötschberg-Simplon: Part One”, in Trains Illustrated, page 743:
      In the early days troubles were experienced with oscillation from the rod drive and with the transformers, but were overcome later, and these machines performed useful service until superseded by more modern locomotives less costly in maintenance.
  2. (intransitive) To prevail.
    • 1968, Martin Luther King Jr., (Please provide the book title or journal name):
      We shall overcome because Carlyle is right; "no lie can live forever".
    • 2012, BioWare, Mass Effect 3 (Science Fiction), Redwood City: Electronic Arts, →OCLC, PC, scene: Citadel, Docking Bay E24 (Kite's Nest: Pillars of Strength):
      Preacher: Maintain, my brothers and sisters--we have faced adversity, and overcome. This is but a test!
      Preacher: Remember the pillars of strength that hold our people high. Show the galaxy our resolve!
  3. (transitive) To recover from (a difficulty), to get over
  4. (transitive) To win or prevail in some sort of battle, contest, etc.
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, “iij”, in Le Morte Darthur, book IV:
      Ther with all cam kyng Arthur but with a fewe peple and slewe on the lyfte hand and on the ryght hand that wel nyhe ther escaped no man / but alle were slayne to the nombre of xxx M / And whan the bataille was all ended the kynge kneled doune and thanked god mekely / and thenne he sente for the quene and soone she was come / and she maade grete Ioye of the ouercomynge of that bataille
      (please add an English translation of this quotation)
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book II, Canto XII”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC, stanza 31, pages 370–371:
      They were faire Ladies, till they fondly ſtriu’d / With th’Heliconian maides for mayſtery; / Of whom they ouer-comen, were depriu’d / Of their proud beautie, and th’one moyity / Transform’d to fiſh, for their bold ſurquedry, / But th’vpper halfe their hew retayned ſtill, / And their ſweet skill in wonted melody; / Which euer after they abuſd to ill, / T’allure weake traueillers, whom gotten they did kill.
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter II, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC:
      That the young Mr. Churchills liked—but they did not like him coming round of an evening and drinking weak whisky-and-water while he held forth on railway debentures and corporation loans. Mr. Barrett, however, by fawning and flattery, seemed to be able to make not only Mrs. Churchill but everyone else do what he desired. And if the arts of humbleness failed him, he overcame you by sheer impudence.
  5. To come or pass over; to spread over.
    I was overcome with anger.
  6. (obsolete) To overflow; to surcharge.
    • 1697, Virgil, “The Second Book of the Georgics”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC:
      A Crop so plenteous, as the Land to load,
      O'ercome the crowded Barns
    • 1708, [John Philips], “(please specify the page)”, in Cyder. [], London: [] J[acob] Tonson, [], →OCLC:
      Th' unfallow'd Glebe Yearly o'ercomes the Granaries with Store Of Golden Wheat.


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


overcome (plural overcomes)

  1. (Scotland) The burden or recurring theme in a song.
  2. (Scotland) A surplus.