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EnglishEdit

EtymologyEdit

From Middle English overdon, from Old English oferdōn, equivalent to over- +‎ do

PronunciationEdit

VerbEdit

overdo (third-person singular simple present overdoes, present participle overdoing, simple past overdid, past participle overdone)

  1. To do too much; to exceed what is proper or true in doing; to carry too far.
    Synonym: exaggerate
    I overdid the sweets during the holidays and put on some weight.
    • c. 1600, William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, Scene 2,[1]
      [] o’erstep not the modesty of nature: for anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end [] is to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature;
    • 1636, Philip Massinger, The Bashful Lover, Act I, Scene 1, in Three New Playes, London: Humphrey Moseley, 1655, pp. 1-2,[2]
      Believe me,
      That servant overdoes, that’s too officious;
      And in presuming to direct your master,
      You argue him of weakness, and your self
      Of arrogance and impertinence.
    • 1776, Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 5, p. 54,[3]
      The merchant importers [] endeavour, as well as they can, to suit their occasional importations to what, they judge, is likely to be the immediate demand. With all their attention, however, they sometimes over-do the business, and sometimes under-do it.
    • 1868, Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, Boston: Roberts Brothers, Part 1, Chapter 16, p. 247,[4]
      Jo helps me with the sewing, and insists on doing all sorts of hard jobs. I should be afraid she might overdo, if I didn’t know her ‘moral fit’ wouldn’t last long.
    • 1952, Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt, New York: Norton, 2004, Chapter 16, p. 200,[5]
      Carol had overdone the ventilation and the room was cold.
  2. To cook for too long.
    Synonym: overcook
    Antonyms: underdo, undercook
    to overdo the meat
    • 1765, Oliver Goldsmith, Essays, London: W. Griffin, Essay 5, p. 43,[6]
      [He] talked of a feast where he had been the day before, but that the venison was over-done.
    • 1851, Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, New York: Harper & Brothers, Chapter 64, p. 332,[7]
      Well, for the future, when you cook another whale-steak for my private table here, the capstan, I’ll tell you what to do so as not to spoil it by overdoing. Hold the steak in one hand, and show a live coal to it with the other; that done, dish it; d’ye hear?
  3. To give (someone or something) too much work; to require too much effort or strength of (someone); to use up too much of (something).
    Synonyms: overtask, overtax, fatigue, exhaust, wear out
    to overdo one’s strength
    • 1620, Francis Quarles, A Feast for Wormes, London: Richard Moore, Section 2,[8]
      Good God! how poore a thing is wretched man?
      So fraile, that let him striue the best he can,
      With euery little blast hee’s ouerdon.
    • 1680, Matthew Stevenson, The Wits Paraphras’d, or, Paraphrase upon Paraphrase in a Burlesque on the Several Late Translations of Ovids Epistles, London: Will. Cademan, “Acontius to Cydippe,” p. 134,[9]
      And you’re so weak I’le not pursue you,
      For fear lest I should overdo you.
    • 1799, Hannah More, Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, London: T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davies, Volume 2, Chapter 16, p. 156,[10]
      [] look abroad and see who are the people that complain of weariness, listlessness, and dejection? You will not find them among such as are overdone with work, but with pleasure.
    • 1912, Zane Grey, Riders of the Purple Sage, New York: Harper, Chapter 18, p. 268,[11]
      “Bern, you’re weak—trembling—you talk wildly,” cried Bess. “You’ve overdone your strength. [...]”
    • 1934, Dorothy L. Sayers, The Nine Tailors, London: Victor Gollancz, 1975, “A Full Peal of Grandsire Triples,” Part 5,[12]
      “Oh!” said Mrs. Venables, “how tiresome it all is. I’m sure you’ll wear your brains right out with all these problems. You mustn’t overdo yourself. [...]”
  4. (obsolete) To do more than (someone); to do (something) to a greater extent.
    Synonyms: excel, outdo, surpass
    • 1629, James Mabbe (translator), Deuout Contemplations by Cristóbal de Fonseca, London: Adam Islip, Sermon 2, p. 36,[13]
      In a delicate Garden, where Art hath shewed it’s vtmost, yee shall meet with Roses, Gillyflowers, and Fountaines of Alabaster and Iasper; but thou wilt not so much admire this, as if thou shouldst light on these dainties in a Desert, or in some craggie Mountain, where the hand of nature shall ouerdoe that of art and Industrie.
    • 1654, John Cleveland, The Idol of the Clownes, London, p. 35,[14]
      [...] it would be their shame for ever to be overdone in mischiefe, nor were they here exceeded.
    • 1709, Aaron Hill, A Full and Just Account of the Present State of the Ottoman Empire, London: for the author, Chapter 4, p. 28,[15]
      the Turks delight but little in the outward Ornament of Houses, nor aspire in the least to overdo each other in the Europaean Custom of Polite and Solid Architecture, yet do they far more exceed us in the rich Ornaments and Contrivances of their Pavilions,
    • 1859, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, “Elaine,” London: Edward Moxon, p. 171,[16]
      But in the field were Lancelot’s kith and kin, []
      Strong men, and wrathful that a stranger knight
      Should do and almost overdo the deeds
      Of Lancelot;

Derived termsEdit

Usage notesEdit

Until the 19th century, overdo was often used intransitively (without a direct object), but this usage is rare in contemporary English, and has been replaced by the phrase overdo it, “to do something too much, in an exaggerated way, or in a way that makes one too tired or endangers one's health:”

I think you’ve overdone it on the food for this evening—there’s enough here to feed an army!
I wanted to have all the weeding done today, but I overdid it and now I’m too tired to go out.

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