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From Middle English overstonden, from Old English oferstandan ‎(to stand over), equivalent to over- +‎ stand. Cognate with Dutch overstaan ‎(to stand over), German überstehen ‎(to stand through, survive).

The slang meaning was coined in Rastafarianism, as an inversion of understand (before 1965).


overstand ‎(third-person singular simple present overstands, present participle overstanding, simple past and past participle overstood)

  1. (rare) to stand or insist too much or too long; overstay
    • "But they that overstand the day of grace, shall not obtain to cool their tongues so much of this water as will hang on the tip of one's finger." (Bunyan, The Water of Life, 1688)
  2. (transitive) to stand too strictly on the demands or conditions of.
  3. (yachting, boat racing): to sail to the mark at a wider angle than is the normal upwind angle, to go beyond the layline
  4. (Rastafarianism, US black subculture): to have complete or intutitive comprehension, to grok
    • "But, Sister, it look like you neither overstand or understand" (Orlando Patterson, The children of Sisyphus: A novel, 1965, p. 192)
  5. (forestry, of a coppice): To be neglected and left uncut for too long.
    • "When a coppice woodland is no longer cut on its regular rotation the rods from the stool continue to grow and the coppice becomes known as overstood. Sadly, in many parts of the country this is the commonest form of coppice you are likely to see." (The Woodland Way: a permaculture approach to sustainable woodland management. Ben Law. Hyden House 2001. ISBN: 978-1856230094)



over + stand


  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: over‧stand


overstand m ‎(plural overstanden, diminutive overstandje n)

  1. an amount which is outstanding, a remaining debt