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A 1981 photograph of Nicolae Ceaușescu, the former President of Romania, who was overthrown (sense 1) during the Romanian Revolution in 1989. On 25 December that year, he and his wife Elena were convicted in a show trial for genocide, subversion of state power, and other charges, and executed by firing squad.

Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English overthrouen,[1] from over- (from Old English ofer (over, above),[2] ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *upér-) + throuen (from Old English þrāwan (to twist, turn, writhe),[3] from Proto-Germanic *þrēaną (to twist, turn)), equivalent to over- +‎ throw. Compare Dutch overdraaien, German überdrehen.

For the noun sense, compare Middle English overthrou, overthroue (destruction, downfall), from overthrouen.[4]


overthrow (third-person singular simple present overthrows, present participle overthrowing, simple past overthrew, past participle overthrown)

  1. (transitive) To bring about the downfall of (a government, etc.), especially by force.
    I hate the current government, but not enough to want to overthrow them.
    • 1591, William Shakespeare, “The First Part of Henry the Sixt”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene iii], page 99, column 2:
      Here's Gloſter, a Foe to Citizens, / One that ſtill motions Warre, and neuer Peace, / O're-charging your free Purſes with large Fines; / That ſeeks to ouerthrow Religion, / Becauſe he is Protector of the Realme; []
    • 1825 June 22, [Walter Scott], chapter IV, in Tales of the Crusaders. [...] In Four Volumes, volume I (The Betrothed), Edinburgh: Printed [by James Ballantyne and Co.] for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Hurst, Robinson, and Co., OCLC 5584494, page 71:
      Wounded and overthrown, the Britons continued their resistance, clung round the legs of the Norman steeds, and cumbered their advance; while their brethren, thrusting with pikes, proved every joint and crevice of the plate and mail, or grappling with the men-at-arms, strove to pull them from their horses by main force, or beat them down with their bills and Welch hooks.
    • 1856, Jabez Burns, “LXVIII. The Ruinous Effects of Sin.”, in Cyclopedia of Sermons: [], New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton and Company, [], OCLC 692530910, page 104:
      Wickedness often overthrows the health of the sinner. Go to the hospital, and see how many have ruined their health by their course of life. That drunkard. That glutton. That debauchee. Nine-tenths of the suffering from disease originates in the wickedness of the sinner.
    • 1999, Errol A. Henderson, “Civil Wars”, in Lester Kurtz, editor, Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, & Conflict, volume I (A–E), San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press, →ISBN, section I (Definition of Civil War), page 279, column 2:
      Violence directed specifically at the regime in power, such as coups d'etat also often fail to attain the threshold of civil wars. While such conflicts often involve the armed forces of the society, coups d'etat are more explicitly extralegal executive transfers aimed at overthrowing the sitting regime's leaders.
  2. (transitive, now rare) To throw down to the ground, to overturn.
    • [1526], [William Tyndale, transl.], The Newe Testamēt [] (Tyndale Bible), [Worms, Germany: Peter Schöffer], OCLC 762018299; republished as The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: Published in 1526. [], London: Samuel Bagster, [], 1836, OCLC 679500256, John II:[15], folio lxxvii, recto, page [252]:
      And he [Jesus] made a scourge off small cordes, and drave them all out off the temple, bothe shepe and oxen, and powred doune the changers money, and overthrue their tables.
    • 1650, Jer[emy] Taylor, “Of Christian Sobriety”, in The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living. [], London: Printed [by R. Norton] for Richard Royston [], OCLC 838283213; The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living. [], 5th corrected edition, London: Printed for Richard Royston [], 1656, OCLC 43167441, section VI (Of Contentedness in All Estates and Accidents), page 161:
      Pittacus was a wiſe and valiant man, but his wife overthrew the Table when he had invited his friends: upon which the good man to excuſe her incivility and his own miſfortune, ſaid, That every man had one evil, and he was moſt happy that had but that alone; []
    • 1760, John Dryden, “The Last Parting of Hector and Andromache. From the Sixth Book of the Iliad.”, in The Miscellaneous Works of John Dryden, [], volume IV, London: Printed for J[acob] and R[ichard] Tonson, [], OCLC 863244003, pages 451–452:
      I have no parents, friends, nor brothers left; / By ſtern Achilles all of life bereft. / Then when the walls of Thebes he overthrew, / His fatal hand my royal father ſlew; / He ſlew Aetion, but deſpoil'd him not; / Nor in his hate the funeral rites forgot; []
    • [1780?], Nicholas Coxe, “A Short Account of Some Particular Beasts that are Hunted in Foreign Countries”, in The Huntsman. [], London: Printed for J. Dixwell, [], OCLC 723452062, page 118:
      [W]hen they have found the Trees on which they [the elk] lean, they cut and ſaw them, ſo that when the Elk comes, he overthrows the Tree and falls with it; and being unable to riſe, is ſo taken alive.
Derived termsEdit


overthrow (plural overthrows)

  1. A removal, especially of a ruler or government, by force or threat of force.
    • 1599, William Shakespeare, “The Life of Henry the Fift”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act IV, scene iii], page 87, column 1:
      Once more I come to know of thee King Harry, / If for thy Ranſome thou wilt now compound, / Before thy moſt aſſured Ouerthrow: []
    • 1945 August 17, George Orwell, chapter 1, in Animal Farm: A Fairy Story, London: Secker & Warburg, OCLC 3655473:
      What then must we do? Why, work night and day, body and soul, for the overthrow of the human race!
    • 2004, Carlos G. Groppa, “The Tango’s Influence on Other Popular Music”, in The Tango in the United States: A History, Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, →ISBN, pages 59–60:
      [Edward B.] Marks believed that [Milton] Cohen had paid spies everywhere to keep him up-to-date about impending political overthrows in the countries where he needed to stop, as he always escaped fine and dandy from every revolution he had to face.
    • 2017, David Wood, “Argentina beyond El Proceso: Narratives of National Reconstruction”, in Football and Literature in South America (Routledge Research in Sports History), Abingdon, Oxon.; New York, N.Y.: Routledge, →ISBN, page 147:
      [T]he narrator's football team has recently returned triumphant from Buenos Aires after winning the Copa Infantil Evita (Evita Youth Cup), part of the Juegos Evita (Evita Games) that were established in 1948 for children across Argentina, and which ran until the overthrow of Juan Perón in 1955
  2. (archaic, rare) An act of throwing something to the ground; an overturning.
Coordinate termsEdit

Etymology 2Edit

over- +‎ throw.


overthrow (third-person singular simple present overthrows, present participle overthrowing, simple past overthrew, past participle overthrown)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To throw (something) so that it goes too far.
    He overthrew first base, for an error.
    • 1999, H. C. Dubey, “Rules and Regulations”, in Diving (DPH Sports Series), London: Discovery Publishing House, →ISBN, page 179:
      Unlike the gymnast landing on the firm floor and able to control his balance within fairly wide limits, the diver has little or no control of his position as he enters the water. If he overthrows on entry there is little he can do about it.
    • 1999, Penny Hastings, “Softball”, in Sports for Her: A Reference Guide for Teenage Girls, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, →ISBN, page 89:
      To avoid [arm and shoulder injuries], strengthen muscles by throwing, increasing the repetitions and speed slowly; warm up slowly and thoroughly, stretching in advance; pursue weight training. Avoid overthrowing, especially early in the season.
    • 2000, Thomas Appenzeller; Herb Appenzeller, “Injuries to Spectators”, in Youth Sport and the Law: A Guide to Legal Issues, Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, →ISBN, page 65:
      On May 6, 1995, eight-year-old Johnny Lupoli was warming up before a baseball game in Wallingford, Connecticut (Sports Illustrated, 1996). Johnny, a pitcher for the Kovacs Insurance team in the Yalesville Little League overthrew his catcher during the pre-game session and hit a spectator. Carol LaRosa, the injured spectator, who's[sic, meaning whose] son was a teammate of Lupoli, sued the young pitcher for $15,000 in damages.
    • 2015, Viridiana Lieberman, “M.V.P.: The Most Vulnerable Player in Children’s Sports Films”, in Sports Heroines on Film: A Critical Study of Cinematic Women Athletes, Coaches and Owners, Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, →ISBN, page 73:
      One afternoon the local reverend and Curtis are tossing the football around at the park. When the reverend overthrows the ball, Curtis demands that Jasmine put down her book and throw the ball back. This is the moment where Curtis is handed a glimpse of her potential as a football player and begins his quest to inspire her to play.


overthrow (plural overthrows)

  1. (sports) A throw that goes too far.
    • 2002, International Journal of Sport Psychology: Official Journal of the International Society of Sports Psychology, volume 33, Rome: Pozzi, ISSN 0047-0767, OCLC 230702535, page 41:
      [A]n energy shift accompanies the onset of emotion. Failure to recognize this can lead to disruptions in performance. A quarterback who fails to acknowledge his excitement in a big game is prone to countless overthrows until the excitement has subsided.
    • 2013, Marcus Blackburn, “Lesson 5: Defend as a Team”, in Coaching Rugby Sevens, 2nd edition, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, →ISBN, page 92:
      The one-man lift is effective in creating enough of a contest in the air to disrupt the opposition or force an overthrow. The defender at the back of the lineout is perfectly positioned to catch an overthrow, and deter the attacking halfback from running around the back of the lineout.
    1. (cricket) A run scored by the batting side when a fielder throws the ball back to the infield, whence it continues to the opposite outfield.
      • 1999, Ashok Kumar, “Fielding”, in Cricket (DPH Sports Series), New Delhi: Discovery Publishing House, published 2006, →ISBN, page 49:
        Of all the cricket skills, good throwing is the one most readily appreciated by spectators, whether it be from the outfield or the infield. [] All throws must be "backed-up" by the nearest available fielder to prevent overthrows at both the bowler's and the wicket-keeper's ends. Nothing is more depressing than a fielding side giving away overthrows from bad throwing and backing-up.


  1. ^ overthrouen, v.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 12 February 2018.
  2. ^ over-, pref.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 12 February 2018.
  3. ^ throuen, v.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 12 February 2018.
  4. ^ overthrou(e, n.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 12 February 2018.

Further readingEdit