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From Middle English surfeite, surfet, a borrowing from Anglo-Norman surfet, surfeit and Old French sorfet, sorfait, past participle of surfaire (to augment, exaggerate, exceed), from sur- (over) + faire (to do).



surfeit (countable and uncountable, plural surfeits)

  1. (countable) An excessive amount of something.
    A surfeit of wheat is driving down the price.
  2. (uncountable) Overindulgence in either food or drink; overeating.
  3. (countable) A sickness or condition caused by overindulgence.
    King Henry I is said to have died of a surfeit of lampreys.
  4. Disgust caused by excess; satiety.
  5. (countable) A group of skunks.


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surfeit (third-person singular simple present surfeits, present participle surfeiting, simple past and past participle surfeited)

  1. (transitive) To fill (something) to excess.
    Synonym: stuff
    • 1610–1611 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act III, scene iii]:
      You are three men of sin, whom Destiny,
      That hath to instrument this lower world
      And what is in’t,—the never-surfeited sea
      Hath caused to belch up you;
    • 1875, Anthony Trollope, chapter 23, in The Way We Live Now[3], volume I, London: Chapman and Hall, []:
      If this surfeited sponge of speculation, this crammed commercial cormorant, wanted more than that for his daughter, why could he not say so without asking disgusting questions such as these [] ?
  2. (transitive) To feed (someone) to excess (on, upon or with something).
    Synonyms: glut, overfeed, stuff
    She surfeited her children on sweets.
    • 1665, Robert Boyle, Occasional Reflections upon Several Subjects[4], London: Henry Herringman, Reflection 10, page 186:
      [] ev’n the wholsomest Meats may be surfeited on, and there is nothing more unhealthy, than to feed very well, and do but very little Exercise.
    • 1906, O. Henry, “The Furnished Room”, in The Four Million[5], New York: A.L. Burt, page 240:
      To the door of this, the twelfth house whose bell he had rung, came a housekeeper who made him think of an unwholesome, surfeited worm that had eaten its nut to a hollow shell and now sought to fill the vacancy with edible lodgers.
    • 1909, Arnold Bennett, The Old Wives’ Tale[6], Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchnitz, Volume 1, Book 2, Chapter 8, section 1, p. 318:
      If he said of a dish, in the local tongue: “I could do a bit of that!” or if he simply smacked his lips over it, she would surfeit him with that dish.
  3. (transitive) To make (someone) sick as a result of overconsumption.
    • 1640, Thomas Fuller, Joseph’s Partie-Colored Coat[7], London: John Williams:
      [] that proportion of meat surfetteth, and surchargeth the stomacks of some, which is not enough to satisfie the hunger of others,
    • 1755 January 2, George Colman, The Connoisseur[8], volume 1, number 49, London: R. Baldwin, page 299:
      [] I imagine him poisoned by his wines, or surfeited by a favourite dish;
  4. (transitive, figurative) To supply (someone) with something to excess; to disgust (someone) through overabundance.
    Synonyms: cloy, glut
    • 1697, Aphra Behn, “On an ungrateful and undeserving Mistress, whom he cou’d not help Loving” in Poems upon Several Occasions, London: Francis Saunders, p. 50,[9]
      While some glad Rival in her Arms did lye,
      Glutted with Love and surfeited with Joy.
    • 1795, Richard Cumberland, Henry[10], London: Charles Dilly, Volume 4, Book 10, Chapter 3, p. 18:
      [] he shan’t shut me up in this dismal castle, and nauseate me with his surfeiting fondness:
    • 1844 Jun, Charles Lever, chapter 53, in Tom Burke of “Ours”[11], volume 2, Dublin: William Curry, page 31:
      [] I suppose his majesty thought we had enough of it on the field, and did not wish to surfeit us with glory.
    • 1922, F[rancis] Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, →OCLC, book 2, page 210:
      After supper, surfeited with the subject, she yawned.
    • 1977, Susan Sontag, “The Heroism of Vision”, in On Photography[12], New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, page 77:
      The image-surfeited are likely to find sunsets corny; they now look, alas, too much like photographs.
  5. (transitive) To satisfy (someone's appetite) to excess (both literally and figuratively).
    Synonym: glut
    • 1796, Maria Edgeworth, “The Mimic”, in The Parent’s Assistant; or, Stories for Children[13], volume 2, London: J. Johnson, page 98:
      [] his appetite for vulgar praise had not yet been surfeited;
    • 1922, Lenore Richards, Nola Treat, chapter 2, in Quantity Cookery,[14], Boston: Little, Brown, page 8:
      Every one has had the experience of being served with more food than can be eaten with relish and without waste. The effect is to surfeit the appetite and to limit the variety which a patron may have,
  6. (intransitive, reflexive) To overeat or feed to excess (on or upon something).
    Synonyms: glut, indulge, overfeed, overindulge
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, Luke 21:34:
      And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
    • 1908, Jack London, chapter 17, in The Iron Heel[15], New York: The Macmillan Company, page 251:
      Millions of people were starving, while the oligarchs and their supporters were surfeiting on the surplus.
    • 1917, R. L. Alsaker, chapter 16, in Maintaining Health[16], New York: Frank E. Morrison, page 174:
      Those who do not surfeit themselves do not weary quickly of any particular article of diet.
  7. (intransitive, reflexive, figurative) To indulge (in something) to excess.
    • 1748, William Gilpin, A Dialogue upon the Gardens of the Right Honourable Viscount Cobham, at Stow in Buckinghamshire[17], London: B. Seeley, page 54:
      After surfeiting itself with the Feast here provided for it, the Eye, by using a little Exercise in travelling about the Country, grows hungry again, and returns to the Entertainment with fresh Appetite.
    • 1847 October 16, Currer Bell [pseudonym; Charlotte Brontë], chapter I, in Jane Eyre. An Autobiography. [], volume II, London: Smith, Elder, and Co., [], →OCLC, page 16:
      [] a more fantastic idiot had never surfeited herself on sweet lies, and swallowed poison as if it were nectar.
    • 1869, Mark Twain, chapter 47, in The Innocents Abroad[18], Hartford, CT: American Publishing Company, page 496:
      [] the intemperate zeal with which middle-aged men are apt to surfeit themselves upon a seductive folly which they have tasted for the first time.
  8. (intransitive, reflexive) To become sick from overindulgence (both literally and figuratively).
    • c. 1596–1598 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act I, scene ii]:
      [] they are as sick that surfeit with too much as they that starve with nothing.
    • 1642, Thomas Fuller, chapter 13, in The Holy State, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: [] Roger Daniel for John Williams, [], →OCLC, book I, page 43:
      I must confesse at my first reading of them [the miracles of Hildegard of Bingen], my belief digested some, but surfeted on the rest:
    • 1667 (revival performance), John Dryden, The Wild Gallant: A Comedy. [], In the Savoy [London]: [] T[homas] Newcomb for H[enry] Herringman, [], published 1669, Act II, page 17:
      He that ſerves many Miſtreſſes, ſurfeits on his diet, and grovvs dead to the vvhole ſex: 'tis the folly in the vvorld next long ears and braying.
    • 1861, Herbert Spencer, chapter 4, in Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical,[19], London: Williams and Norgate, page 149:
      But are children to be allowed to surfeit themselves? Shall they be suffered to take their fill of dainties and make themselves ill, as they certainly will do?

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