Definition of overflow in English:



[no object]
Pronunciation /əʊvəˈfləʊ/
  • 1(especially of a liquid) flow over the brim of a receptacle.

    ‘chemicals overflowed from a storage tank’
    with object ‘the river overflowed its banks’
    • ‘About 60,000 residents in the province have been transferred to safe areas during the past few days after sections of the swelling Lihe River overflowed and parts of the embankment burst.’
    • ‘Suddenly realizing that the water was overflowing, she poured out a bit and wiped off the edges of the mug with a cloth.’
    • ‘The sewage overflows from a manhole on a footpath in the second road of the estate.’
    • ‘Waste overflowed into the Swan River in Warminster after a blockage in the sewers underneath nearby playing fields.’
    • ‘Soon, tears overflowed and rolled down my cheeks.’
    • ‘She looked up at him and let her fist angrily splash the water, not caring if the water overflowed onto the floor.’
    • ‘The problems started on Sunday night when the water-heating unit malfunctioned and hot water overflowed into the cold tank, Mr Chapman said.’
    • ‘Actually, the river has already overflowed once, and there are further warnings of possible floods.’
    • ‘If a heavy rain fills the reservoir, the water overflows into a perforated pipe that zigzags under the garden.’
    • ‘Yet at the time of writing these ponds have already overflowed twice.’
    • ‘Sewage overflowed into wash basins at West Middlesex Hospital following a blockage in one of the toilets.’
    • ‘Most pages will also contain river and stream stage information and show at what water level rivers will overflow their banks.’
    • ‘Water surged up through ruptures in the pavement, gushed up through culverts and overflowed into the street.’
    • ‘Slow progress was made, but we managed to get to the bathtub before the water overflowed.’
    • ‘Now, those pumps could themselves be underwater if the river overflowed its banks.’
    • ‘After the river water overflowed the banks, it proceeded northward.’
    • ‘As a result of a tap being left on in the top floor lavatory water overflowed and damaged some of the plaintiff's stock on the second floor.’
    • ‘The water overflowed in the hand, going straight out to either side as the streams of water continuously added their masses together.’
    • ‘Swollen rivers overflowed and flooded roads, homes, yards and underpasses.’
    • ‘Even a midsize or small river can overflow into streets if a storm causes the water level to rise quickly.’
    overfull, full to bursting, full to overflowing, spilling over, running over, crammed full, cram-full, jammed, overcrowded, packed like sardines, congested, choked, overloaded, overpopulated, overpeopled, overrun, crowded, thronged, swarming, teeming
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (of a container) be so full that the contents go over the sides.
      ‘boxes overflowing with bright flowers’
      • ‘Many buildings were flooded, school pupils and teachers were evacuated, and dams overflowed.’
      • ‘Giles said he was running a bath and it had almost overflowed.’
      • ‘There are big storms up here, and the drains and gutters overflowed and flooded the mall.’
      • ‘Sewers overflowed and mixed with rainwater and entered houses through drain pipes.’
      • ‘My shelves are full, my bookcase is full, my drawers are overflowing, I have a zillion boxes of stuff and yet more stuff all over the floor.’
      • ‘According to Mrs Bennett, the drains overflow five or six times a year.’
      • ‘My green bin is now overflowing but has never been emptied.’
      • ‘He said the bin was overflowing in January but disappeared mysteriously.’
      • ‘My closet and drawers are literally overflowing with ancient artifacts with little or nothing known about their origins.’
      • ‘Many readers have complained their bins are now overflowing and the council admits it has received hundreds of inquiries and complaints.’
      • ‘Around them, ashtrays overflow, piled high, one on top of the other.’
      • ‘Not only was my Green Box overflowing, but next to it were two black sacks full of paper.’
      • ‘Linen bags were also overflowing on half of the wards.’
      • ‘In any case, the collectors didn't come on Friday, so the bin was still overflowing when we got home from work.’
      • ‘The walls were lined with book cases, which were full to the brim, and overflowing onto the floor.’
      • ‘The neighbours say their drains overflow every four months.’
      • ‘The present situation is that the dam is already overflowing and it is obvious that more rain is coming.’
      • ‘Common failings included forgotten scraps of food in refrigerators, fridges not being at the required temperature and waste bins overflowing.’
      • ‘Drains overflow, road surfaces are washed away and traffic signals stop working.’
      • ‘Many can't afford to have the septic tanks emptied regularly, so they fill and overflow into the street.’
      overfull, full to bursting, full to overflowing, spilling over, running over, crammed full, cram-full, jammed, overcrowded, packed like sardines, congested, choked, overloaded, overpopulated, overpeopled, overrun, crowded, thronged, swarming, teeming
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 (of a space) be so crowded that people spill out.
      ‘the waiting area was overflowing’
      • ‘Waiting lounges overflowed, as they did at London airports.’
      • ‘The hall was overflowing, and the crowd - the decidedly mainstream crowd, please note (only a handful sported dreadlocks) - fired up.’
      • ‘The streets became busier and busier, almost overflowing with crowds of people.’
      • ‘The hip hop room is overflowing and happening - at least on Thursday nights.’
      overfull, full to bursting, full to overflowing, spilling over, running over, crammed full, cram-full, jammed, overcrowded, packed like sardines, congested, choked, overloaded, overpopulated, overpeopled, overrun, crowded, thronged, swarming, teeming
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3with object Flood or flow over (a surface or area)
      ‘her hair overflowed her shoulders’
      • ‘He wore fairly shabby clothes, perhaps better suited for a wanderer, and had green hair overflowing his head, with black streaks running here and there.’
      • ‘The large hospital bed and all of the medical equipment overflowed the living room area.’
      • ‘As I entered the house, the sweet scent of a new house unfolded and the fresh air from outside overflowed the entire house.’
      • ‘Vulcanologists said the danger was that the increasing pressure of the rising lava would force a breach in the flanks of the mountain, not that the lava would overflow the rim of the 1.2km-wide crater.’
      • ‘In order to overcome this problem when reducing milk over high heat, one should start off with a sufficiently large pan so that even foaming will not overflow the sides.’
      • ‘It was also interesting to note that the prairie dogs had overflowed the boundaries of their enclosure a bit.’
      spill over, flow over, run over, brim over, well over, slop over, slosh over, pour forth, stream forth, flood, discharge, surge, debouch
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    4. 1.4overflow with Be very full of (an emotion or quality)
      ‘her heart overflowed with joy’
      • ‘But right then, just for that moment, however short, it was real, and my heart overflowed with emotion.’
      • ‘You can expect to be won over with manic guitar riffs, pounding drumming, catchy melodies, and a stage presence that overflows with energy.’
      • ‘Her voice overflows with unsealed emotion and verbal excess.’
      • ‘We don't share our sentiments with friends we have known since school days, but we overflow with emotions in crowded chat rooms.’
      • ‘Every book I have written overflows with that loathing, and I cannot bear the sight of guns.’


Pronunciation /ˈəʊvəfləʊ/
  • 1mass noun The flowing over of a liquid.

    ‘there was some overflow after heavy rainfall’
    count noun ‘an overflow of sewage’
    • ‘In the meantime, the city has built two storage facilities in the eastern beaches and one in the western beaches, designed to intercept sewage overflow.’
    • ‘In addition, safety features have been considered in the pond design to prevent overflow.’
    • ‘There will then be a local overflow and surplus will end up running into distant ground, rivers, wherever gravity will dictate.’
    • ‘It is not possible to ensure complete safety from flooding or overflow.’
    • ‘There was an overflow through the roof hatch on two occasions.’
    • ‘The new tank, which was lowered into place by a huge crane, will help prevent flood water overflow and untreated sewage gushing into the River Blackwater.’
    • ‘For some years now, residents have been struggling with the problem of septic overflow resulting in sewerage running onto the streets and creating a health hazard and an unsightly environment.’
    • ‘By daybreak the yards that back onto Ten-Mile Creek were filled with its overflow.’
    • ‘On a lighter note, Canberra's citizens have been asked to minimise water going into the drains to prevent sewage overflow into the river system.’
    • ‘To accommodate overflow from storms, the capacity of the new line will be 300 percent of the maximum wastewater flow.’
    • ‘Uncontrolled overflow spread into the salt lakes, causing them to expand and eventually mix with the freshwater.’
    • ‘According to the report the appropriate flood control approach for Bangladesh is to open up as much space as possible to accommodate river overflow.’
    • ‘As far as the local officials are concerned, we all know that their responsibility will differ depending on whether it was mountain torrent, mudrock slide or river overflow.’
    • ‘In some cases, concrete and stone retaining walls and dikes are erected along banks to stave off overflow in heavy rain.’
    • ‘The experiment was started to avoid overflow from the existing sewage ponds into the surrounding claypans.’
    overspill, spill, spillage, flood, flooding, inundation, excess water
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1in singular The excess or surplus not able to be accommodated by an available space.
      ‘to accommodate the overflow five more offices have been built’
      • ‘There's a valid argument, really, to have at least a feed of some sort for an overflow section.’
      • ‘They can also get access to a further 22 spaces in a nearby overflow car park during bigger services.’
      • ‘Interconnected streets allow rush-hour overflow to trickle through neighborhoods, moving more traffic with less pavement.’
      • ‘There were poignant scenes among the overflow congregation as the community came together in sadness and grief to pay their respects to Danny and show their support for the bereaved family.’
      • ‘However, sources suggested that this would not have benefited TV3 significantly, as the station would not have been able to accommodate the overflow.’
      • ‘The coach-parking area can double up as an overflow car park, with spaces for a further 50 cars if it is not needed for coaches at any time.’
      • ‘LaBonge says the city plans to build a parking area on Fuller to accommodate the overflow, but he has no idea when it will be built.’
      • ‘Members of both sides of the political spectrum in the overflow audience rose to applaud.’
      • ‘An overflow audience was intently learning the signs and, like a sing-along at a concert, doing a sign-along.’
      • ‘My job at the food importers started at seven, and the street door of the overflow hostel was not unlocked until seven.’
      • ‘And overflow capacity anticipated to be available in other magistrates' courts is no longer there because of changes in the courts system.’
      • ‘The right aisle was made into a classroom to accommodate the overflow from the schoolhouse across the road.’
      • ‘It will also offer 11 mother-and-toddler spaces and 16 coach spaces, which could double up as an overflow park for a further 50 cars.’
      • ‘That's the only area where we have any significant overflow.’
      • ‘I really liked the idea that there was a place for overflow.’
      • ‘It has been decided that the expected overflow from the church on the evening of June 3rd will be catered for by using a marquee.’
      • ‘We would be delighted to arrange other celebration evenings to accommodate the overflow from that night.’
      • ‘Many of the overflow visitors scheduled to stay in Cancun have filled the resorts in the Riviera Maya.’
      • ‘More than 300 people attended, so the overflow attendees were housed in a dormitory that reeked of fresh paint.’
      • ‘The townspeople throw open their homes to receive this influx of visitors and the overflow stay in caravans and tents.’
      surplus, excess, additional people, additional things, extra people, extra things, remainder, overabundance, overspill
      View synonyms
  • 2(in a bath or sink) an outlet for excess water.

    • ‘Owing to these considerations, I am still persuaded that exterior termination of the overflow pipe is the more practical solution.’
    • ‘Your bath should have an overflow to meet modern plumbing regulations.’
    • ‘The trouble started last Wednesday when we got home to find the overflow pipe gushing water from the side of the house.’
    • ‘Position the valve so that the overflow pipe is next to the ballcock.’
    • ‘When the water got cold I kicked the faucet and let it run until water gurgled into the overflow.’
    • ‘This causes problems around culverts, overflow pipes, and other water conduits.’
    • ‘They broke the wire fence to the play area along with the overflow pipe to the drinking fountain.’
    • ‘When we checked with the building department, the local inspector told us that the water heater is correctly installed and that the overflow pipe complies with the intent of the building code.’
  • 3Computing
    mass noun The generation of a number or other data item which is too large for the assigned location or memory space.

    • ‘For example, a single application may require a host server along with dedicated servers for testing, quality control, overflow, mirroring, and so on.’
    • ‘It's a simple buffer overflow, and should be patched within days.’
    • ‘Security tools vendor ISS warns that ‘vulnerability is a standard stack overflow, and therefore it may be relatively easy to exploit’.’
    • ‘A properly exploited buffer overflow could allow a hacker to gain root, or superuser, access to a Sendmail server.’
    • ‘This may result in unexpected application behavior, accessing a defunct application, incomplete database records or buffer overflow.’


  • full to overflowing

    • Completely full.

      ‘the order book was full to overflowing’
      ‘a knapsack full to overflowing with clothes’
      • ‘The music business is full to overflowing with tales of artists who have had their fingers burned by the big industry players.’
      • ‘I think you will find most are full to overflowing.’
      • ‘The scheme has created a storm of protest in the city with scores of residents complaining that their bins will be full to overflowing with rotting rubbish if their bins are not emptied weekly.’
      • ‘But by the end of the 19th century the offices were full to overflowing.’
      • ‘Already I'm told the Sept.10th list is now full to overflowing, and is the biggest, numerically, in several years.’
      • ‘With its best hotels and restaurants full to overflowing, the city is already feeling like a winner no matter which city eventually wins the right to host the 2012 Olympics.’
      • ‘He said: ‘We've got an active gardening club and the old compost bin is always full to overflowing.’’
      • ‘Sadly, we have to report once again that the bottle bank is once again full to overflowing.’
      • ‘With musicians of this quality struggling to fill a 5000 capacity venue, which in any other part of the country would have been full to overflowing, it is no wonder that big names usually refuse to play here.’
      • ‘The recycling bin is full to overflowing, even in the holidays.’
      overfull, full to bursting, full to overflowing, spilling over, running over, crammed full, cram-full, jammed, overcrowded, packed like sardines, congested, choked, overloaded, overpopulated, overpeopled, overrun, crowded, thronged, swarming, teeming
      View synonyms


Old English oferflōwan (see over-, flow).