From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English overthrowen,[1] equivalent to over- +‎ throw. Compare Dutch overdraaien, German überdrehen, Old English oferweorpan (to overthrow).

For the noun sense, compare Middle English overthrow, overthrowe (destruction, downfall), from the verb.[2]


overthrow (third-person singular simple present overthrows, present participle overthrowing, simple past overthrew, past participle overthrown)

  1. (transitive) To bring about the downfall of (a government, etc.), especially by force; to usurp.
    I hate the current government, but not enough to want to overthrow them.
    • 1591 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The First Part of Henry the Sixt”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene iii], page 99, column 2:
      Here's Gloſter, a Foe to Citizens, / One that ſtill motions Warre, and neuer Peace, / O're-charging your free Purſes with large Fines; / That ſeeks to ouerthrow Religion, / Becauſe he is Protector of the Realme; []
    • 1825 June 22, [Walter Scott], chapter IV, in Tales of the Crusaders. [], volume I (The Betrothed), Edinburgh: [] [James Ballantyne and Co.] for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Hurst, Robinson, and Co., →OCLC, page 71:
      Wounded and overthrown, the Britons continued their resistance, clung round the legs of the Norman steeds, and cumbered their advance; while their brethren, thrusting with pikes, proved every joint and crevice of the plate and mail, or grappling with the men-at-arms, strove to pull them from their horses by main force, or beat them down with their bills and Welch hooks.
    • 1856, Jabez Burns, “LXVIII. The Ruinous Effects of Sin.”, in Cyclopedia of Sermons: [], New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton and Company, [], →OCLC, page 104:
      Wickedness often overthrows the health of the sinner. Go to the hospital, and see how many have ruined their health by their course of life. That drunkard. That glutton. That debauchee. Nine-tenths of the suffering from disease originates in the wickedness of the sinner.
    • 1999, Errol A. Henderson, “Civil Wars”, in Lester Kurtz, editor, Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, & Conflict, volumes I (A–E), San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press, →ISBN, section I (Definition of Civil War), page 279, column 2:
      Violence directed specifically at the regime in power, such as coups d'etat also often fail to attain the threshold of civil wars. While such conflicts often involve the armed forces of the society, coups d'etat are more explicitly extralegal executive transfers aimed at overthrowing the sitting regime's leaders.
  2. (transitive, now rare) To throw down to the ground, to overturn.
    • 1526, [William Tyndale, transl.], The Newe Testamẽt [] (Tyndale Bible), [Worms, Germany: Peter Schöffer], →OCLC, The Gospell off S. Jhon ij:[15], folio cxxi, verso:
      And he [Jesus] made a ſcourge off ſmale cordes / and drave thē all out off the temple / bothe ſhepe and oxen / ãd powred doune the changers money / and overthrue their tables.
    • 1650, Jer[emy] Taylor, “Of Christian Sobriety”, in The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living. [], London: Printed [by R. Norton] for Richard Royston [], →OCLC; The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living. [], 5th corrected edition, London: Printed for Richard Royston [], 1656, →OCLC, section VI (Of Contentedness in All Estates and Accidents), page 161:
      Pittacus was a wiſe and valiant man, but his wife overthrew the Table when he had invited his friends: upon which the good man to excuſe her incivility and his own miſfortune, ſaid, That every man had one evil, and he was moſt happy that had but that alone; []
    • a. 1701 (date written), John Dryden, “The Last Parting of Hector and Andromache. From the Sixth Book of the Iliad.”, in The Miscellaneous Works of John Dryden, [], volume IV, London: [] J[acob] and R[ichard] Tonson, [], published 1760, →OCLC, pages 451–452:
      I have no parents, friends, nor brothers left; / By ſtern Achilles all of life bereft. / Then when the walls of Thebes he overthrew, / His fatal hand my royal father ſlew; / He ſlew Aetion, but deſpoil'd him not; / Nor in his hate the funeral rites forgot; []
    • [1780?], Nicholas Coxe, “A Short Account of Some Particular Beasts that are Hunted in Foreign Countries”, in The Huntsman. [], London: Printed for J. Dixwell, [], →OCLC, page 118:
      [W]hen they have found the Trees on which they [the elk] lean, they cut and ſaw them, ſo that when the Elk comes, he overthrows the Tree and falls with it; and being unable to riſe, is ſo taken alive.
Derived terms[edit]


overthrow (countable and uncountable, plural overthrows)

  1. A removal, especially of a ruler or government, by force or threat of force; usurpation.
    • 1599, William Shakespeare, “The Life of Henry the Fift”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act IV, scene iii], page 87, column 1:
      Once more I come to know of thee King Harry, / If for thy Ranſome thou wilt now compound, / Before thy moſt aſſured Ouerthrow: []
    • 1891, Henry Boynton, “America”, in History of the Nineteenth Century in the United States and Europe, period I (During the Triumphs of Napoleon’s Empire), Augusta, Me.: Press Co., [], page 352:
      But Judge Livingstone decided that no resistence to law, however extensive or violent, is treason if overthrow of the government is not its object.
    • 1945 August 17, George Orwell [pseudonym; Eric Arthur Blair], chapter 1, in Animal Farm [], London: Secker & Warburg, →OCLC:
      What then must we do? Why, work night and day, body and soul, for the overthrow of the human race!
    • 2004, Carlos G. Groppa, “The Tango’s Influence on Other Popular Music”, in The Tango in the United States: A History, Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, →ISBN, pages 59–60:
      [Edward B.] Marks believed that [Milton] Cohen had paid spies everywhere to keep him up-to-date about impending political overthrows in the countries where he needed to stop, as he always escaped fine and dandy from every revolution he had to face.
    • 2017, David Wood, “Argentina beyond El Proceso: Narratives of National Reconstruction”, in Football and Literature in South America (Routledge Research in Sports History), Abingdon, Oxon., New York, N.Y.: Routledge, →ISBN, page 147:
      [T]he narrator's football team has recently returned triumphant from Buenos Aires after winning the Copa Infantil Evita (Evita Youth Cup), part of the Juegos Evita (Evita Games) that were established in 1948 for children across Argentina, and which ran until the overthrow of Juan Perón in 1955
  2. (archaic, rare) An act of throwing something to the ground; an overturning.
Coordinate terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

over- +‎ throw.


overthrow (third-person singular simple present overthrows, present participle overthrowing, simple past overthrew, past participle overthrown)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To throw (something) so that it goes too far.
    He overthrew first base, for an error.
    • 1999, H. C. Dubey, “Rules and Regulations”, in Diving (DPH Sports Series), London: Discovery Publishing House, →ISBN, page 179:
      Unlike the gymnast landing on the firm floor and able to control his balance within fairly wide limits, the diver has little or no control of his position as he enters the water. If he overthrows on entry there is little he can do about it.
    • 1999, Penny Hastings, “Softball”, in Sports for Her: A Reference Guide for Teenage Girls, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, →ISBN, page 89:
      To avoid [arm and shoulder injuries], strengthen muscles by throwing, increasing the repetitions and speed slowly; warm up slowly and thoroughly, stretching in advance; pursue weight training. Avoid overthrowing, especially early in the season.
    • 2000, Thomas Appenzeller, Herb Appenzeller, “Injuries to Spectators”, in Youth Sport and the Law: A Guide to Legal Issues, Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, →ISBN, page 65:
      On May 6, 1995, eight-year-old Johnny Lupoli was warming up before a baseball game in Wallingford, Connecticut (Sports Illustrated, 1996). Johnny, a pitcher for the Kovacs Insurance team in the Yalesville Little League overthrew his catcher during the pre-game session and hit a spectator. Carol LaRosa, the injured spectator, who's[sic – meaning whose] son was a teammate of Lupoli, sued the young pitcher for $15,000 in damages.
    • 2015, Viridiana Lieberman, “M.V.P.: The Most Vulnerable Player in Children’s Sports Films”, in Sports Heroines on Film: A Critical Study of Cinematic Women Athletes, Coaches and Owners, Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, →ISBN, page 73:
      One afternoon the local reverend and Curtis are tossing the football around at the park. When the reverend overthrows the ball, Curtis demands that Jasmine put down her book and throw the ball back. This is the moment where Curtis is handed a glimpse of her potential as a football player and begins his quest to inspire her to play.


overthrow (plural overthrows)

  1. (sports) A throw that goes too far.
    • 2002, International Journal of Sport Psychology: Official Journal of the International Society of Sports Psychology, volume 33, Rome: Pozzi, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 41:
      [A]n energy shift accompanies the onset of emotion. Failure to recognize this can lead to disruptions in performance. A quarterback who fails to acknowledge his excitement in a big game is prone to countless overthrows until the excitement has subsided.
    • 2013, Marcus Blackburn, “Lesson 5: Defend as a Team”, in Coaching Rugby Sevens, 2nd edition, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, →ISBN, page 92:
      The one-man lift is effective in creating enough of a contest in the air to disrupt the opposition or force an overthrow. The defender at the back of the lineout is perfectly positioned to catch an overthrow, and deter the attacking halfback from running around the back of the lineout.
    • 2024 February 12, Ben Morse and Steve Almasy, “Kansas City Chiefs defeat San Francisco 49ers in OT in Super Bowl LVIII, become first back-to-back NFL champions in 19 years”, in CNN.com[1]:
      A late-scoring push forced overtime, but even in added time, the team was forced to go for a field goal on their initial drive after a pass rusher forced an overthrow from Purdy. This allowed Mahomes in and the emerging all-time great doesn’t often make mistakes.
    1. (cricket) A run scored by the batting side when a fielder throws the ball back to the infield, whence it continues to the opposite outfield.
      • 1999, Ashok Kumar, “Fielding”, in Cricket (DPH Sports Series), New Delhi: Discovery Publishing House, published 2006, →ISBN, page 49:
        Of all the cricket skills, good throwing is the one most readily appreciated by spectators, whether it be from the outfield or the infield. [] All throws must be "backed-up" by the nearest available fielder to prevent overthrows at both the bowler's and the wicket-keeper's ends. Nothing is more depressing than a fielding side giving away overthrows from bad throwing and backing-up.
      • 2019 July 14, Stephan Shemilt, “England win Cricket World Cup: Ben Stokes stars in dramatic finale against New Zealand”, in BBC Sport[2], London:
        England required 15 from the last over of the regular match. Ben Stokes hit a six and benefited when a throw from the deep hit him and went for four overthrows.


  1. ^ overthrouen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 12 February 2018.
  2. ^ overthrou(e, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 12 February 2018.

Further reading[edit]