overreach

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

The verb is from Middle English overrechen (to rise above; to extend beyond or over; to encroach; to catch, overtake; to reach; to obtain wrongfully (?); to take up (a book) to revise it) [and other forms],[1] equivalent to over- +‎ reach;[2] the noun is derived from the verb or from the phrase to reach over.[3]

Pronunciation[edit]

Verb[edit]

overreach (third-person singular simple present overreaches, present participle overreaching, simple past and past participle overreached)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To reach above or beyond, especially to an excessive degree. [from 14th c.]
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:transcend
    • 1616 May 8, Francis Bacon, “A Letter to the King, with His Majesty’s Observations on It”, in Basil Montagu, editor, The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England, volume VI, new edition, London: William Pickering, published 1826, OCLC 625264199, page 228:
      [...] I cannot forget what the poet Martial saith; "O quantum est subitis casibus ingenium!" signifying, that accident is many times more subtle than foresight, and overreacheth expectation; [...]
    • 1835, [Richard Henry Horne], “Disquisition on the Genius, Writings, and Character of William Hazlitt”, in W. J. Fox, editor, The Monthly Repository, volume IX (New Series), London: Charles Fox, []; R. Hunter, [], OCLC 7182434, page 637:
      Writhing under his deficiency of means, he [William Hazlitt] struggled to supersede practice, overreach time, and bound at once to the conclusion.
    • 1836, Samuel Kirkham, “Of Rhetorical Action”, in An Essay on Elocution, Designed for the Use of Schools and Private Learners, 3rd enlarged and improved edition, New York, N.Y.: Published by Robinson, Pratt, & Co., [], OCLC 236075778, page 151:
      The most eloquent manner of reading and of speaking, is the most easy of attainment, if sought for through the proper channel; for it is as simple as it is natural. But many who aim at it, fail by the very efforts adopted to gain it. They overreach the mark. They shoot too high. Instead of breathing forth their sentiments in the fervid glow of simple nature, which always warms, and animates, and interests the hearer, they work themselves up into a sort of frigid bombast, which chills and petrifies him.
    • 1878 November 6, Samuel H[ubbard] Scudder, “A Century of Orthoptera. Decade X.—Locustariæ (Conocelphalus).”, in Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History, volume XX, Boston, Mass.: Printed for the Society [i.e., Boston Society of Natural History], published 1881, ISSN 0270-2444, OCLC 479144910, paragraph 98, page 93:
      [B]eneath [the fastigium of Conocephalus hebes, a species of bush-cricket], the whole forms a depending pointed cone, whose sides are scarcely less than a right angle with each other, and are separated by a pretty wide frontal incisure, by the slightly tuberculated tip of the front of the face which it overreaches.
    • 2003, Jennifer Vaughan Jones, “Married Life (1928–1929)”, in Anna Wickham: A Poet’s Daring Life, Lanham, Md.: Madison Books, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, →ISBN, page 206:
      In September 1926, [...] he [Patrick Hepburn] overreached his strength in his walks over the mountains and passes of his beloved Lake district, suffered leg injuries, and "was found in an exhausted condition and taken to a neighboring inn."
    • 2004 December, Cheryl Price; Julia Wix, Produce Complex Business Documents (Word 2003), Chatswood, N.S.W.: Software Publications, →ISBN, page ii:
      Don't overreach when reaching for the function keys. This causes the finger tendons to stretch. Move your hand closer to the desired key before pressing it.
    1. (transitive, property law) To defeat or override a person's interest in property; (Britain, specifically) of a holder of the legal title of real property: by mortgaging or selling the legal title to a third party, to cause another person's equitable right in the property to be dissolved and to be replaced by an equitable right in the money received from the third party.
      • 1813, Edward Burtenshaw Sugden, “Of the Vendor’s Lien on the Estate Sold for the Purchase-money, if Not Paid”, in A Practical Treatise of the Law of Vendors & Purchasers of Estates, 4th edition, London: Printed for J[oseph] Butterworth, [], OCLC 9314992, page 452:
        [A]n equitable mortgage, by deposit of deeds to a person, bona fide, and without notice, will give him a preferable equity; and will overreach the vendor's equitable lien on the estate for any part of the purchase-money.
      • 1834 October 21, Reuben H[yde] Walworth, Chancellor, New York Court of Chancery, “Kellogg vs. Wood”, in Alonzo C[hristopher] Paige, editor, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Court of Chancery of the State of New-York, volume IV, New York, N.Y.: Published by Gould, Banks & Co. []; Albany, N.Y.: W[illia]m & A. Gould & Co. [], OCLC 22127386, page 616:
        Wood therefore cannot, in equity, be permitted to proceed in his ejectment suit, to recover possession of the land under the title he has acquired from the state, by the attorney general's sale, and which at law overreaches the complainant's title.
      • 2003, Peter Sparkes, “Trusts of Land”, in A New Land Law, 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire; Portland, Or.: Hart Publishing, →ISBN, pages 215 and 216:
        [page 215] City of London B[uilding] S[ociety] v. Flegg decided that the occupiers are not protected since a sale by two trustees overreaches. [...] [page 216] The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the occupation of the Fleggs but, after universal academic execration, that decision was unanimously reversed by the [House of] Lords. Their occupation rights had indeed been overreached. [...] Two trustees effected what appeared to the lenders to be a proper mortgage, so that the rights of the beneficiaries were swept off the title and transferred to the mortgage money. The Fleggs could not enforce their rights against the lenders.
  2. (transitive, intransitive, figuratively) To do something beyond an appropriate limit, or beyond one's ability.
    • 1947, C[harles] E[dmund] Carrington, “Imperialism in Retreat”, in An Exposition of Empire (Current Problems; 28), Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: At the University Press, OCLC 838998400, page 110:
      The British Empire would not have endured so long had it not been for a discreet sense of moderation in its rulers, generation after generation. The coolness displayed towards the colonies by successive British Governments has at least prevented the empire-builders from overreaching themselves.
    • 1982, New York State Assembly, [Supporting Memorandum for Section 4509 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules] (L. 1982, chapter 14); quoted in Robert S. Peck, “Just between You and Your Librarian—Library Confidentiality Laws”, in Libraries, the First Amendment and Cyberspace: What You Need to Know, Chicago, Ill.; London: American Library Association, 2000, →ISBN, page 89:
      Records [of library loans] must be protected from the self-appointed guardians of public and private morality and from officials who might overreach their constitutional prerogatives. Without such protection, there would be a chilling effect on our library users as inquiring minds turn away from exploring varied avenues of thought because they fear the potentiality of others knowing their reading history.
    • 2012, Steven N. Sparta, “Introduction”, in Kathryn F. Kuehnle and Leslie M. Drozd, editors, Parenting Plan Evaluations: Applied Research for the Family Court, New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page xi:
      Professionals must remind themselves not to overreach the extent of their data and not to substitute values for scientifically supported facts, and must know when to inform fact-finders about the extent of the limits to knowledge.
  3. (transitive, intransitive, reflexive, equestrianism) Of a horse: to strike the heel of a forefoot with the toe of a hindfoot. [from 16th c.]
    • 1598, John Florio, “Attinto”, in A Worlde of Words, or Most Copious, and Exact Dictionarie in Italian and English, [], printed at London: By Arnold Hatfield for Edw[ard] Blount, OCLC 222555892, page 32, column 3:
      Attinto, [...] Alſo when a horſe is tainted or hurt, or ouerreacheth one foote with another, and withal doth hurt a ſinew.
    • 1864, John Nicholson Navin, “Vices of the Horse”, in Navin’s Veterinary Practice: Or Explanatory Horse Doctor. [], Indianapolis, Ind.: Published for the author; stereotyped at the Franklin Type Foundry, [], OCLC 1049906030, division I, page 287:
      Defective or bad form will predispose a horse to overreach. Bad shoeing will also be liable to cause the hind-foot to catch the forward one.
  4. (transitive, intransitive, rare) To deceive, to swindle.
    Synonyms: cheat, defraud; see also Thesaurus:deceive
    • 1634, Robert Sanderson; William Jacobson, compiler, “Sermon VI. At the Assizes at Nottingham, in the Year 1634, at the Request of Robert Mellish, Esq., then High Sheriff of that County.”, in The Works of Robert Sanderson, D.D. sometime Bishop of Lincoln, [...] In Six Volumes, volume II, Oxford, Oxfordshire: At the University Press, published 1854, OCLC 800590118, § 22, page 344:
      Say, thou that by thy cunning overreachest thy brother in buying, selling, or bargaining, or deceivest the trust reposed in thee by thy friend, couldst thou brook to be in like sort cheated thyself?
    • 1788, Thomas Bisset, “Sermon IV. The Necessity and Advantages of Early Religion.”, in Sermons, Edinburgh: Printed for J. Dickson, and W[illiam] Creech; London: T[homas] Cadell, OCLC 1003989431, page 85:
      A wicked man does his utmoſt to vitiate the principles, and corrupt the morals of his own houſehold; [...] How can the child of ſuch a father be diſciplined to the ſervice of God. Thou art a barbarous father; he is an unhappy child. Thy language and manners are impure: Thou ſweareſt in his hearing; thou overreacheſt before his eyes; thou makeſt a mock of religion, and encourageſt him to do it. How can he be good, when ſuch pains are taken to make him evil!
    • 1834, John Pallister, A Brief Memoir of Mrs. Jane Pallister, of Preston, near Hull, who was a Consistent Member of the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion upwards of Fifty-six Years; with a Faithful Account of the Wonderful Appearances after Her Decease, London; Hull, Yorkshire: Joseph Noble, [], OCLC 669710803, page 17:
      In the course of the [card] game, he so far over-shot the mark as to give her instructions to overreach the others at play; and here the important "still small voice" whispered, "what! if God should call thee to judgment at this moment?" She turned pale—threw down the devil's pictures—and was never after seen wasting her precious time with such degrading trifles.
  5. (intransitive, nautical) To sail on one tack farther than is necessary.
    • 1903, “Ships and Shipping”, in David S. Garland and Lucius P. McGehee, under the supervision of James Cockcroft, editors, The American and English Encyclopædia of Law, volume XXV, 2nd edition, Northport, Long Island, N.Y.: Edward Thompson Company; London: C. D. Cazenove and Son, [], OCLC 838104093, paragraph 5 (Duty of Sail Vessel to Beat Out Her Tack), page 922:
      Where a sail vessel close hauled and a steam vessel approach so as to involve risk of collision, the rule requiring the sail vessel to keep her course requires her to beat out her tack. [...] She is not required to tack short on signal from the steam vessel when there is danger in so doing, nor need she remain in stays or overreach longer than usual when such measures are not apparently necessary to avoid a collision.
  6. (transitive, archaic) To get the better of, especially by artifice or cunning; to outwit. [from 16th c.]
    • c. 1590–1592, William Shakespeare, “The Taming of the Shrew”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act III, scene ii], page 220:
      Wee'll ouer-reach the grey-beard Gremio, / The narrow prying father Minola, / The quaint Muſician, amorous Litio, / All for my Maſters ſake Lucentio.
    • c. 1599–1602, William Shakespeare, The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke: [] (Second Quarto), London: Printed by I[ames] R[oberts] for N[icholas] L[ing] [], published 1604, OCLC 760858814, [Act V, scene i]:
      That ſkull had a tongue in it, and could ſing once, how the knave iowles it to the ground, as if twere Caines iawbone, that did the firſt murder, this might be the pate of a pollitician, which this aſſe now ore-reaches; one that would circumuent God, might it not?
      That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once – how that knave [a gravedigger] throws it to the ground, as if it was the jawbone of Cain, who committed the first murder. This might have been the head of a politician, which this ass now gets the better of; one that could have talked its way around God, might it not?
    • 1674, John Milton, “Book IX”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem in Twelve Books, 2nd revised and augmented edition, London: Printed by S[amuel] Simmons [], OCLC 563123917, page 223:
      I from the influence of thy looks receave / Acceſs in every Vertue, in thy ſight / More wiſe, more watchful, ſtronger, if need were / Of outward ſtrength; while ſhame, thou looking on, / Shame to be overcome or over-reacht / Would utmoſt vigor raiſe, and rais'd unite.
    • 1764, Onuphrio Muralto [pseudonym; Horace Walpole], chapter II, in William Marshal [pseudonym], transl., The Castle of Otranto: A Story: Translated [...] from the Original Italian, London: Printed for Tho[mas] Lownds, OCLC 325125189; The Castle of Otranto, a Gothic Story, 3rd edition, London: Printed for William Bathoe [], 1766, OCLC 1008346072, page 74:
      [...] Manfred, who concluded that he had either over-reached the good man, or that his firſt warmth had been but a tribute paid to appearance, was overjoyed at his ſudden turn [...]
    • 1803, William Hunter, “Postscript”, in A Vindication of the Cause of Great Britain; with Strictures on the Insolent and Perfidious Conduct of France, since the Signature of the Preliminaries of Peace. [], 3rd corrected edition, London: Printed for John Stockdale, [], OCLC 891130864, page 83:
      What is essentially beneficial to one party is materially detrimental to another: they have been enemies before, and may be enemies again: so that they are constantly endeavouring to overreach each other by some separate advantage, and serious causes of animosity and dissension are perpetually arising.

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Noun[edit]

overreach (countable and uncountable, plural overreaches)

  1. (also figuratively) An act of extending or reaching over, especially if too far or much; overextension.
    • 1997, William P. Kreml, “Warren Critiqued”, in The Constitutional Divide: The Public and Private Sectors in American Law, Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, →ISBN, page 156:
      It may not be much of a stretch to say that there had always been something comforting about the earlier periods of judicial activism. [...] Ideology aside, one may concede that such Supreme Court activism was far less frightening in its institutional overreach than a wholesale creation of new and public law by the judicial branch would be.
    • 2010 November 3, Barack Obama, “The President’s News Conference: November 3, 2010”, in Barack Obama: 2010 (In Two Books) (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States), book II (July 1 to December 31, 2010), Washington, D.C.: Published by the Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration; United States Government Printing Office, published 2013, OCLC 1023457156, page 1723:
      [T]hat's something that I think everyone in the White House understood was danger. We thought it was necessary, But I'm sympathetic to folks who looked at it and said, this is looking like potential overreach.
    • 2015, Michael J. McVicar, “American Heretics: Democracy, the Limits of Religion, and the End of Reconstruction”, in Christian Reconstruction: R. J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism, Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, →ISBN, page 186:
      When American society finally collapses under the combined weight of massive foreign debt, military overreach, and internal decadence, [Gary] North and his followers at Tyler hoped to have a network of churches ready to step into the breach.
    • 2018 October 9, A. A. Dowd, “The Star and Director of La La Land Reunite for First Man’s Spectacular Trip to the Moon”, in The A.V. Club[1], archived from the original on 23 April 2020:
      [Damien] Chazelle and [Josh] Singer acknowledge both the impressive resourcefulness and faintly insane overreach of the space race; they were winging it, attempting the impossible with relatively primitive technology—"Boys making models out of balsa wood," Janet [Shearon Armstrong] calls them, after Director Of Flight Operations Deke Slayton (Kyle Chandler) cuts the radio feed during a mission gone wrong.
  2. (equestrianism) Of a horse: an act of striking the heel of a forefoot with the toe of a hindfoot; an injury caused by this action.
    • 1833 April, “Teaching the Horse to Leap”, in T. B. Johnson, editor, The Sportsman’s Cabinet, and Town and Country Magazine, volume I, number 6, London: Published by Sherwood, Gilbert, & Piper, [], OCLC 64221043, page 424:
      The hunter's [i.e., hunting horse's] legs should be washed with warm water, carefully examined for thorns, overreaches, &c., and the legs should be rubbed dry, and well hand rubbed, by which means a free circulation of the blood will be promoted.
    • 1833 October, “Art. LXVI.—The Vices, and Disagreeable or Dangerous Habits of the Horse. [From the Library of Useful Knowledge.]”, in John D. Legare, editor, The Southern Agriculturist, and Register of Rural Affairs; [], volume VI, number 10, Charleston, S.C.: Printed and published for the editor, by A. E. Miller, [], OCLC 699792606, part II (Selections), page 547:
      Overreach.—This unpleasant noise, known also by the terms ‘clicking’, ‘overreach’, &c., arises from the toe of the hind foot knocking against the shoe of the fore foot.

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