Word of the Week: Inundate

Word: inundate

Pronunciation: IN-ən-dayt

Part of Speech: verb


  1. overwhelm someone with things or people to be dealt with
  2. flood

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Next up on my advanced vocabulary list, here’s another word with dual concrete/abstract meanings. “Inundate” is a word I’ve come across several times, equally in the sense of literal floods of liquid and of metaphorical floods of responsibilities. Of course, being a grad student who studies aquatic ecosystems, it’s no wonder I’m well familiar with this particular uncommon word!

To “inundate” someone is to overwhelm them with people or things to deal with, while to “inundate” a place is to flood it. The word arose in the late 16th century and comes from the Latin verb inundare, meaning “to flood”. This verb is composed of the preposition in “into” and the verb undare “to flow”, the latter of which is derived from the noun unda “wave”.

Because “inundate” is basically an advanced form of the verb “flood”, it may often come off as unnecessarily complex in its literal definition. For fiction, I would recommend using it mostly in the abstract sense of overwhelming someone with obligations, though you needn’t hesitate to use its concrete meaning for a scene involving an actual water flood. If your stories frequently involve floods of liquid, things, or people, “inundate” is a good word to add to your list! Good luck!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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