Overwhelmed vs Overwhelming

overwhelmed vs overwhelming

o·ver·whelmed (ˌəʊvəˈwɛlmd)

1. (of the thoughts, emotions, or senses) overpowered
2. overcome, as with an abundance or concentration of something





o·ver·whelm·ing (ˌəʊvəˈwɛlmɪŋ)

1. overpowering in effect, number or strength
2. so great as to make resistance or opposition useless




overwhelmed and overwhelming: untranslatable words?

Lê este artigo em Português aqui.



I know very few words in English with the overwhelming strength of ‘overwhelmed’. Stronger than that, I guess only ‘overwhelming’. So much so that there is not a single word able to fully translate its meaning.


Neither ‘overwhelmed’ is (only) assoberbada, nor ‘overwhelming‘ is (only) esmagador. Are these untranslatable words?


I don’t think so. I do not believe in untranslatable words. I wonder, instead, if untranslatable might not be the sensations – the emotions, perhaps – that those words want to express.


When they are so extreme, so grand, so absolute, emotions are, indeed, really hard to put into words. The English language was lucky enough to own the word ‘overwhelmed’ and to give it a meaning that, whether positive or negative, always carries great intensity.


Overwhelmed is more than ‘sobrecarregada’, but that is what I thought of when I wrote about Overload. Overwhelming is more than ‘espantoso’, but that’s what I thought of when I wrote Awe.


It is one of my favorite words because I often feel it too. And having a word helps to describe it: overpowered, overcome, taken – defeated, perhaps – by emotions that I cannot quite explain. Sometimes I have a full head and a heavy heart. Other times, the mind empties, and the soul gets unbearably light. ‘Overwhelmed’.


In times like these – challenging, intense, diffuse, overwhelming – it is normal to feel this way: overwhelmed. Just remember to understand how that translates into you: is it more often a good or a bad thing? 

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