Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search



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).



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
    • Spenser
      This wretched woman overcome / Of anguish, rather than of crime, hath been.
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, Moonfleet, Ch.4:
      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.
  2. (transitive, obsolete) To win (a battle).
    • 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
  3. (intransitive) To win or prevail in some sort of battle, contest, etc.
    We shall overcome.
    • 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.
  4. (transitive, usually in passive) To overwhelm with emotion.
    I was overcome with anger.
  5. To come or pass over; to spread over.
    • Shakespeare
      And overcome us like a summer's cloud.
  6. To overflow; to surcharge.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of J. Philips to this entry?)