Today I was talking to a class mate, and then I told him that we would have continued working tomorrow because today we're saturated, but then he told me: "we're overwhelmed".

Can I say "I'm saturated" to express the fact that I can't bear (btw is bear used correctly here?) something anymore? Is that expression even used? Since he lived in Canada for a few years, I guess "I'm overwhelmed" was correctly used for the situation to express frustration, stress and tiredness.

  • No, that's not a valid expression. If you said that you were "saturated," I'd think you were a triglyceride.
    – Jacob
    Mar 12, 2016 at 23:28
  • There's an interesting related question here
    – dumbledad
    May 11, 2016 at 8:23

2 Answers 2


Horse hockey to the above reply who said you can't use saturated this way. Of course you could feel saturated. It's just sounds a little more artistic, but you could definitely be saturated by too much work.

(BTW, I'm a native English speaker from Texas, USA, who just came by this question by accident. Right now I am dealing with insane responses to corona and was feeling "saturated" by all the BS going on, so I felt like searching that for articles on how deal with it all.)

I'm overwhelmed is perhaps a bit more standard, but I don't think I would make funny faces at anyone saying they were saturated with, in, from, or by work.

  • 1
    Even if I didn't agree with you, which I do, I'd have been tempted to upvote just for "Horse hockey"
    – Kevin
    Jun 4, 2020 at 13:06

The relevant definition of saturate is:

2) to cause (something) to be filled, charged, supplied, etc. with the maximum that it can absorb

"something" can be lots of things, but time or activity are not "things". So you can't use saturated here. Words like "overwhelmed" are OK.

As an example of saturate in this respect, if a store has many brands of cookies that sell well, a new product that wants to sell cookies there might say:

The market for (Cookie X) is saturated.

Or along the lines of the comment from @Jacob, "saturated fats".

  • 1
    I don't buy this. After a day reading text books in the library I could turn to a friend and exclaim "I feel saturated - let's go for a cuppa". That sounds right to me (given the context)
    – dumbledad
    May 11, 2016 at 8:25
  • 1
    @dumbledad Yes, I think in the case of cramming for an exam, "I'm saturated" is a perfect metaphor for the specific feeling that you just can't absorb any more knowledge (since the precise definition of "saturated" is "full to capacity"). I think it could also work if you feel like you've got more work than you could complete in the available time (but "overwhelmed" works better for this). However, if the main intention is to convey the idea of being exhausted or "spent", I don't think "saturate" captures that meaning.
    – atkins
    May 11, 2016 at 9:39

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