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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): /ˌoʊvəɹˈkʌm/
  • (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
  2. (transitive) To win or prevail in some sort of battle, contest, etc.
    We shall overcome.
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, chapter 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
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Qveene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for VVilliam Ponsonbie, OCLC 960102938, book II, canto XII, 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. B. Maxwell, chapter 2, in The Mirror and the Lamp:
      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.
  3. To come or pass over; to spread over.
    I was overcome with anger.
  4. To overflow; to surcharge.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of J. Philips to this entry?)


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.


overcome (plural overcomes)

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