What Does Swamped with Work Mean?

Swamped with Work Meaning

Definition: Overwhelmed with too much to do.

Origin of Swamped with Work

The literal meaning of a swamp is a marsh or wetland. Swamp is attested from the year 1624 and is attributed to John Smith. This man was an English explorer who was a leader of the Jamestown colony in what is now Virginia.

The verb swamped means to sink. This is because a swamp has land that looks dry but is actually wet. Therefore, a person walking in a swamp could easily drown if they stepped in the wrong spot.

The figurative meaning of swamped is from the late-1700s or early-1800s. The idea behind the expression is that a person is sinking or drowning in work, just as a person could sink in a literal swamp.

Examples of Swamped with Work

swamp with workIn the dialogue below, two men use the idiom while hanging out at a cafe.

Robert: It’s so nice to finally relax. I had such a busy week.

Marty: My week was intense as well. In fact, I was so swamped with work on Friday that I can’t even really relax now. I’m too stressed about how busy I’ll be come Monday.

Robert: That’s awful! Your company should hire someone so you can split the duties with another person. You’re doing the work of three or four people. It’s not fair.

Marty: I completely agree.

i am swamped with workThe second dialogue shows two students who are talking about how much homework their English teacher has assigned.

Josh: It’s as if our English professor thinks that his class is the only class that we are taking. I do at least three hours of homework for it per night. And that’s just the reading! If I have to write an essay it can take much longer.

Jeff: I agree. I’m swamped with work from that class alone. When I add in the other homework, I’m dying!

More Examples

This excerpt is about how to eat more nutritiously.

  • Dave really took to Kerneen’s suggestions and made some changes. I tried to follow her plan for about a week, then got swamped with work and life and felt too overwhelmed to even try to focus on my nutrition. –Journal Sentinel

This excerpt is from an article about undocumented workers who want to pay taxes.

  • “We’ll have thousands of people at our doors and we will need to have a plan,” said Salvador Gonzalez, spokesman for the Chicago-based Center for Economic Progress, a nonprofit organization that offers free tax assistance for low- and moderate-income clients. “Anyone dealing with ITINs (an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) will be swamped with work.” –OC Register


The phrase swamped with work is an informal way to say that one has an excess of things to do.