Definition of overdrive in US English:



  • 1A gear in a motor vehicle providing a gear ratio higher than that of the drive gear or top gear, so that engine speed and fuel consumption are reduced in highway travel.

    • ‘It is available in either a five speed manual or an electronically controlled four speed auto with electric overdrive.’
    • ‘A variable speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard.’
    • ‘The fifth gear is an overdrive ratio - very economic on longer runs - so the Tino reaches its maximum speed of 110 mph in fourth gear.’
    • ‘Sally's problem, however, was with her overdrive transmission.’
    • ‘Not a powerful car, even in its day, with only 57 kW on tap, it was designed for the freeways and had an overdrive transmission feature to reduce engine revs by 25 percent.’
    • ‘It offers smooth shifts and a wide spread of ratios that ideally suit the engine's characteristics - including a tall overdrive fifth gear for quiet, efficient highway cruising.’
    • ‘That engine power is then transferred to the wheels by means of a 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive and a lock-up torque converter.’
    • ‘The transmissions will also generally run cooler under a heavy load if you shift down one gear out of overdrive.’
    • ‘Tall overdrive ratios also improve mileage ratings in EPA highway-cycle tests.’
    • ‘A four speed automatic with overdrive and lockup torque converter comes standard with the petrol engine.’
    • ‘Standard for this trim is the 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive.’
    • ‘Unlike other six-speeders, this box doesn't provide an overdrive sixth gear that's pretty well useless at anything under 160 km/h.’
    • ‘When you use overdrive on the highway, the car's engine speed decreases, reducing the amount of fuel used.’
    • ‘The manual box is pretty nifty, but heavy to select reverse, and the overdrive sixth and high fifth gears mean it depends on left wrist exercise.’
    • ‘The original three-speed standard transmission has been upgraded to a 700R four-speed automatic transmission with an overdrive lock-up converter.’
    • ‘Get the gears out of overdrive, and only then will you really thrive.’
    • ‘In my third year, the overdrive was limited, and we had to rev the cars up to 9,500 rpm.’
    • ‘Most automatic transmission cars will have an overdrive button right on the gearshift.’
    1. 1.1 A state of high or excessive activity.
      ‘the city's worried public relations arm went into overdrive’
      • ‘But the European regulations kicked the effort into overdrive.’
      • ‘They went into overdrive, portraying her as a gold-digging divorcee.’
      • ‘Many Sunday papers went into overdrive with special editions and extensive coverage charting her long life.’
      • ‘The machine in her mind switched gears and ground into overdrive.’
      • ‘However, during the few weeks when a trip to Kazakhstan remained a possibility, the football branch of our journalistic fraternity went into overdrive.’
      • ‘My mind sped on overdrive for the next week as summer came looming.’
      • ‘‘Timing constraints threw this program into overdrive,’ he says.’
      • ‘Asylum-seeker hysteria went into overdrive last week in England.’
      • ‘They scored only one point in the remaining minutes while Mayo went into overdrive.’
      • ‘Meinertzhagen went into overdrive, working day and night to persuade staff and clients to stay.’
      • ‘While the gin bottles diminished at an ever-increasing rate in the living-room, the dishwasher went into overdrive in the kitchen.’
      • ‘It was such a simple question, but I had never been asked anything of the sort and it sent me into an overdrive.’
      • ‘Days after the wedding, the mania went into overdrive.’
      • ‘The media went into overdrive at least a week in advance with daily warnings about the ‘big freeze’ to come.’
      • ‘I thought I was doing quite well until late yesterday evening it became clear that my heart was not at all happy with the heat, and I had an uncomfortable half hour while it went into overdrive in protest.’
      • ‘The rumour mill went into overdrive and the identity of her alleged attacker was said to be a well-known secret in London's close-knit television community.’
      • ‘Throughout the latter part of the 1990's the markets surged ahead, generating untold wealth for some people as all stocks went into overdrive.’
      • ‘She flawlessly depicts a girl on the edge whose rebellion, in overdrive, is fueling self-destructive behavior.’
      • ‘As Ireland went into overdrive after the break, it was hard to believe they had been involved in such a scrap earlier on.’
      • ‘It's gone on for so long now that I really can't remember when it started, although I suppose that if I cast my mind back everything probably went into overdrive at the end of August.’
    2. 1.2 A mechanism that permits a higher than normal operating level in a piece of equipment, such as the amplifier of an electric guitar.
      • ‘And I know, just know, as I stomp on the overdrive that it's going to be one of those perfect guitar solos, maybe the perfect solo.’


[with object]usually as adjective overdriven
  • Drive or work to exhaustion.

    ‘the overdriven mothers of ten or eleven hungry children’
    • ‘Bruised and shaken, sweating like an overdriven horse, she imagined how pleasant it would be to lie down in the garbage and go to sleep.’
    • ‘This is probably one source of the ‘hypnotic’ effect that people in this thread have mentioned - you're overdriving part of the brain, it seems.’