Word curio icon

Word Curio

October 16, 2019

Word of the Day: Maelstrom

2 CQ

Word of the Day : January 5, 2017

maelstrom \MAIL-strum\ noun


1 : a powerful often violent whirlpool sucking in objects within a given radius

2 : something resembling a maelstrom in turbulence


The mayor has been swept up in the media maelstrom surrounding the laundering of thousands of dollars in state funds by city officials.

"The dark eye of Saturn's northern polar storm dominates the top left portion of the image, while smaller storms can be seen embedded in the surrounding maelstrom of the hexagon-shaped jet stream." — Anthony Wood, New Atlas (, 7 Dec. 2016

Did You Know?

Maelstrom comes from an early Dutch proper noun that is a combination of the verb malen ("to grind") and the noun stroom ("stream"). The original Maelstrom, now known as the Moskstraumen, is a channel located off the northwest coast of Norway that has dangerous tidal currents and has been popularized among English speakers by writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne (whose writing was widely translated from French) in stories exaggerating the Maelstrom's tempestuousness and transforming it into a whirling vortex. Maelstrom entered English in the 16th century and was soon applied more generally in reference to any powerful whirlpool. By the mid-19th century, it was being applied figuratively to things or situations resembling such maelstroms in turbulence or confusion.

Aired January 5, 2017

All Merriam-Webster content is available at

  • Recommended Recommended
  • History & In Progress History
  • Browse Library
  • Most Popular Library

Get Personalized Recommendations

Let us help you figure out what to learn! By taking a short interview you’ll be able to specify your learning interests and goals, so we can recommend the perfect courses and lessons to try next.

Start Interview

You don't have any lessons in your history.
Just find something that looks interesting and start learning!

500 characters max
J. P
good to understanding japan
500 characters max