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From Middle English overdon, from Old English oferdōn, equivalent to over- +‎ do.



overdo (third-person singular simple present overdoes, present participle overdoing, simple past overdid, past participle overdone)

  1. To do too much; to exceed what is proper or true in doing; to carry too far.
    Synonym: exaggerate
    I overdid the sweets during the holidays and put on some weight.
  2. To cook for too long.
    Synonym: overcook
    Antonyms: underdo, undercook
    to overdo the meat
    • 1765, [Oliver] Goldsmith, “Essay=V”, in Essays. [], London: [] W. Griffin [], →OCLC, page 43:
      [He] talked of a feast where he had been the day before, but that the venison was over-done.
    • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, chapter 64, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC, page 332:
      Well, for the future, when you cook another whale-steak for my private table here, the capstan, I’ll tell you what to do so as not to spoil it by overdoing. Hold the steak in one hand, and show a live coal to it with the other; that done, dish it; d’ye hear?
  3. To give (someone or something) too much work; to require too much effort or strength of (someone); to use up too much of (something).
    Synonyms: overtask, overtax, fatigue, exhaust, wear out
    to overdo one’s strength
    • 1620, Fra[ncis] Quarles, “Sect[ion] 2”, in A Feast for Wormes. Set Forth in a Poeme of the History of Ionah, London: [] Felix Kyngston, for Richard Moore, [], →OCLC, signature D2, recto:
      Good God! hovv poore a thing is vvretched man? / So fraile, that let him ſtriue the beſt he can, / VVith euery little blaſt hee’s ouerdon.
    • 1680, Matthew Stevenson, “Acontius to Cydippe”, in The Wits Paraphras’d, or, Paraphrase upon Paraphrase in a Burlesque on the Several Late Translations of Ovids Epistles[1], London: Will. Cademan, page 134:
      And you’re so weak I’le not pursue you,
      For fear lest I should overdo you.
    • 1799, Hannah More, chapter 16, in Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education[2], volume 2, London: T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davies, page 156:
      [] look abroad and see who are the people that complain of weariness, listlessness, and dejection? You will not find them among such as are overdone with work, but with pleasure.
    • 1912 January, Zane Grey, chapter 18, in Riders of the Purple Sage [], New York, N.Y., London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, →OCLC, page 268:
      “Bern, you’re weak—trembling—you talk wildly,” cried Bess. “You’ve overdone your strength. [...]”
    • 1934, Dorothy L. Sayers, “A Full Peal of Grandsire Triples”, in The Nine Tailors, London: Victor Gollancz, published 1975, Part 5:
      “Oh!” said Mrs. Venables, “how tiresome it all is. I’m sure you’ll wear your brains right out with all these problems. You mustn’t overdo yourself. [...]”
  4. (obsolete) To do more than (someone); to do (something) to a greater extent.
    Synonyms: excel, outdo, surpass
    • 1629, Cristóbal de Fonseca, translated by James Mabbe, Deuout Contemplations[3], London: Adam Islip, Sermon 2, page 36:
      In a delicate Garden, where Art hath shewed it’s vtmost, yee shall meet with Roses, Gillyflowers, and Fountaines of Alabaster and Iasper; but thou wilt not so much admire this, as if thou shouldst light on these dainties in a Desert, or in some craggie Mountain, where the hand of nature shall ouerdoe that of art and Industrie.
    • 1654, John Cleveland, The Idol of the Clownes[4], London, page 35:
      [...] it would be their shame for ever to be overdone in mischiefe, nor were they here exceeded.
    • 1709, Aaron Hill, chapter 4, in A Full and Just Account of the Present State of the Ottoman Empire[5], London: for the author, page 28:
      the Turks delight but little in the outward Ornament of Houses, nor aspire in the least to overdo each other in the Europaean Custom of Polite and Solid Architecture, yet do they far more exceed us in the rich Ornaments and Contrivances of their Pavilions,
    • 1859, Alfred Tennyson, “Elaine”, in Idylls of the King, 1859 edition, London: Edward Moxon & Co., [], →OCLC, page 171:
      But in the field were Lancelot’s kith and kin, [] / Strong men, and wrathful that a stranger knight / Should do and almost overdo the deeds / Of Lancelot;

Usage notes[edit]

Until the 19th century, overdo was often used intransitively (without a direct object), but this usage is rare in contemporary English, and has been replaced by the phrase overdo it, “to do something too much, in an exaggerated way, or in a way that makes one too tired or endangers one's health:”

I think you’ve overdone it on the food for this evening—there’s enough here to feed an army!
I wanted to have all the weeding done today, but I overdid it and now I’m too tired to go out.

Derived terms[edit]