\ ˈbēm How to pronounce beam (audio) \

Definition of beam

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a long piece of heavy often squared timber suitable for use in construction
b weaving : a wood or metal cylinder in a loom on which the warp (see warp entry 1 sense 1a) is wound
c : the part of a plow to which handles, standard, and coulter are attached
d : the bar of a balance from which scales hang
e : one of the principal horizontal supporting members (as of a building or ship) a steel beam supporting a floor also : boom, spar the beam of a crane
f nautical : the extreme width of a ship at the widest part
g engines : an oscillating lever on a central axis receiving motion at one end from an engine connecting rod and transmitting it at the other
2a : a ray or shaft of light beams from the searchlights
b : a collection of nearly parallel rays (such as X-rays) or a stream of particles (such as electrons)
c : a constant directional radio signal transmitted for the guidance of pilots also : the course indicated by a radio beam
3 : the main stem of a deer's antler
4 : the width of the buttocks … immensely broad in the beam— Ann Bridge
on the beam
1 : following a guiding beam
2 : proceeding or operating correctly


beamed; beaming; beams

Definition of beam (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to emit in beams or as a beam (see beam entry 1 sense 2) The sun beamed its light through the window.
2 : to support with beams (see beam entry 1 sense 1) The house was beamed with heavy timbers.
3a : to transmit especially by satellite : broadcast … the 90-minute show was beamed to more than 200 countries and territories around the world.TV Guide
b : to transmit (data) electronically beaming images of the planet back to Earth The amount of data beamed over fiber-optic networks is rising exponentially every year, yet only 0.1% of fiber capacity is in use.— Leslie Cauley especially : to transmit (data) wirelessly Infrared connectivity enables users to work collaboratively on documents without having to log on to the network, and for quickly "beaming" data between different devices (for example, between two notebooks, or between a notebook and a printer, without a need for a cable). Newsweek
c : to direct to a particular audience a commercial beamed at middle-class voters

intransitive verb

1 : to send out rays of light Sunlight beamed through the window.
2 : to smile with joy The bride was beaming.

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Synonyms for beam

Synonyms: Noun

ray, shaft

Synonyms: Verb

radiate, ray, shine

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Examples of beam in a Sentence


a bright beam of light We saw the beams from their flashlights. the building's steel support beams


She beamed as she told us the good news. They stood beaming with satisfaction. “We're getting married!” he beamed. The sun beamed its light through the window. Pictures of the distant planet were beamed back to the Earth.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Night fell and Donna turned on the truck’s banks of high-beams. Gena Steffens, Smithsonian, "The Snakes That Ate Florida," 11 July 2019 At 11:30 in the morning, the beams of light begin to descend. Rebecca Jennings, Vox, "Everyone wants to Instagram the world’s most beautiful canyon. Should they?," 11 July 2019 Moments before the crash, a different officer passed Brown driving with her high-beams on. Minyvonne Burke, NBC News, "17-year-old driver in Nashville hits police car, killing officer, police say," 4 July 2019 When the sunrises and sunsets during the summer solstice and spring and fall equinox, a beam of light shines through windows in a top-floor room. Larry Bleiberg, USA TODAY, "10 great ancient ruins that track the heavens, from Woodhenge to Chichen Itza," 25 June 2019 The base Pilot also comes standard with automatic high-beam control, but the Telluride counters with standard rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems. Washington Post, "Edmunds compares the Kia Telluride and Honda Pilot," 12 June 2019 Despite numerous experiments — using high-precision pendulums, beams of energetic particles and other sophisticated tools — scientists have not yet found any evidence of extra dimensions. Steve Nadis, Discover Magazine, "We've Found Gravitational Waves. What Will We Learn From Them?," 24 May 2019 The atmosphere in the arena, however, was more like that of a concert, full of booming music, biographical videos and high-beam lights, with cameos by Ciara and Eddie Vedder, and Jimmy Kimmel as host and interviewer. Tyrone Beason, The Seattle Times, "‘Who are you becoming?’ Why America needs Michelle Obama’s message now," 25 Mar. 2019 The advisory cautioned drivers to slow down, use low-beam headlights and leave enough distance between vehicles. Isabelle D'antonio,, "Dense fog advisory in effect for Central Florida," 15 Feb. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

At the press conference, Williams beamed, watching Lin speak about the surgery that changed her life. Daily Pilot, "A young woman can now live long and prosper, after brain surgery cures her of seizures," 16 July 2019 The sun is beaming down on the crowd of people conversing, eating and watching basketball being played on the bright blue and yellow court of Shawnee Park. Robert Rimpson, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville's Dirt Bowl turns 50, making it 2nd-longest outdoor basketball tournament," 15 July 2019 Today in Paris, a beaming Bella Hadid stepped out in an especially glitzy outfit consisting of a shimmering silver jacket and matching pants from Y/Project’s Fall 2018 collection. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Bella Hadid’s Vegan Sneakers Are an Understated Win In Paris," 26 Sep. 2018 CloseSurprise Trevor!Posted by Bitty & Beau's Coffee210,524 Viewsapp-facebook Trevor's beaming face said it all. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "Man with Down syndrome gets huge surprise from boss," 5 June 2018 No longer does a worker have to stare at a set of instructions and figure out what goes where—the projectors beam that data directly onto the workspace itself. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Even Building the F-35 Is a High-Tech Process," 3 July 2019 As Ruiz walked away, Imperial Mayor Robert Amparano — who just minutes before had presented the boxer with the keys to the city — looked on and beamed. Gustavo Arellano,, "In Andy Ruiz Jr.’s underdog win, the Imperial Valley sees a ‘Rocky’ story of its own," 30 June 2019 When patients sample their blood and run it through the machine, those data get beamed back to Livongo. STAT, "Diabetes-coaching startup Livongo files to go public in a test for health tech," 28 June 2019 Above the story was a post-debate photo with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s arm draped around a beaming Castro. Bill Lambrecht,, "Dubbed a ‘breakout star’ of first presidential debate, Julián Castro gains momentum," 27 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'beam.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of beam


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for beam


Middle English beem, from Old English bēam tree, beam; akin to Old High German boum tree


Middle English bemen, verbal derivative of bem, beem beam entry 1

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Statistics for beam

Last Updated

21 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for beam

The first known use of beam was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for beam



English Language Learners Definition of beam

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a line of light coming from a source (such as the sun or a headlight)
: a line of energy, particles, etc., that cannot be seen
: a long and heavy piece of wood or metal that is used as a support in a building or ship



English Language Learners Definition of beam (Entry 2 of 2)

: to smile happily
: to say (something) while smiling happily
: to send out beams of light or energy


\ ˈbēm How to pronounce beam (audio) \

Kids Definition of beam

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a long heavy piece of timber or metal used as a main horizontal support of a building or a ship a ceiling beam
2 : a ray of light
3 : a radio wave sent out from an airport to guide pilots


beamed; beaming

Kids Definition of beam (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to send out beams of light Sunlight was beaming through the window.
2 : to smile with joy She beamed as she told us the good news.
3 : to aim a radio broadcast by use of a special antenna


\ ˈbēm How to pronounce beam (audio) \

Medical Definition of beam

1 : a ray or shaft of light
2 : a collection of nearly parallel rays (as X-rays) or a stream of particles (as electrons)

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More from Merriam-Webster on beam

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with beam

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for beam

Spanish Central: Translation of beam

Nglish: Translation of beam for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of beam for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about beam

Comments on beam

What made you want to look up beam? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something desired as essential

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