\ 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

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of beam in a Sentence

Noun a bright beam of light We saw the beams from their flashlights. the building's steel support beams Verb 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 The 2,000+ square foot suite spans the beam of the ship, with a living room, bedroom, indoor and outdoor whirlpool spas, two walk-in closets, and a dramatic foyer. Lucia Tonelli, ELLE Decor, "All Aboard Oceania Riviera’s New Ralph Lauren Home-Designed Suites," 10 Jan. 2020 In each machine a microscopic fleck of molten tin is dropped in front of a laser beam powerful enough to cut metal 50m times a second. The Economist, "A look inside the factory around which the modern world turns," 18 Dec. 2019 There have also been urban guerrilla-style battles with the police, a laser-beam rave party that doubled as a protest, and giant Lennon Walls plastered with Post-It notes across the city. Mary Hui, Quartz, "What the Hong Kong protests can teach the world about enduring social movements," 19 Nov. 2019 Upon first glance at this helmet design, the red outline of the buffalo doesn’t look all that intimidating, especially when compared to the current design of the blue buffalo with the red laser beam coming out of its eye. Conor Orr,, "Which NFL Throwback Uniforms Should Make a Comeback?," 28 June 2019 There are cities in flames, laser beams coming out a people's eyes, and a baptism pool party. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Kylie Jenner is a Golden Goddess Dripping in Diamonds in Travis Scott's New Music Video," 7 Aug. 2018 An alien invader also arrives on Earth by laser beam, and Howard, the scientist, and Howard's love interest (Lea Thompson) are tasked with defeating the alien. Charles Stockdale And John Harrington, USA TODAY, "The 24 most forgettable superheroes in movies," 5 July 2018 What's exists so far feels like an early side-scrolling shooter mixed with a Super Mario Brothers title—albeit with a pixelated cat that shoots laser beams out of its eyes instead of a shapeshifting Italian plumber. Ryan Smith, Chicago Reader, "Animals / News / Technology / The Internet Famous feline Lil' Bub gets her own video game—built by Chicago's Logan Arcade," 23 May 2018 NOTABLE Will Moran saved the game for Jesuit in the eighth inning with a laser beam throw from right. Jim Derry,, "Re-live the top plays from a zany St. Paul's-Jesuit 12-inning thriller," 6 May 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb One last thing to note: Baby Kylie's pretty fussy in the tub/sink, being a baby and all, but beams when the camera's pointed towards her. Emily Dixon, Marie Claire, "Kendall Jenner Shared a Throwback Video Featuring Teenage Khloé Kardashian and Baby Kendall and Kylie," 7 Jan. 2020 The audience rightly applauded, and McKinnon beamed. David Oliver, USA TODAY, "Golden Globes 2020: Kate McKinnon nails what it feels like to see yourself represented onscreen," 6 Jan. 2020 Plug me in, beam me up All this ambition suggests that there may be a bust on the way, and that the EV startups may suffer badly from it. The Economist, "China has never mastered internal-combustion engines," 2 Jan. 2020 The artist dresses up as a Hong Kong policeman from the British colonial era, holding a Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD, a non-lethal sonic weapon, beaming concentrated sound or birdcalls at his audience. Vivienne Chow, Quartz, "Twelve works of art that chart the emotional upheavals of the Hong Kong protests," 31 Dec. 2019 Venus will be the brightest star-like object in the sky in January, beaming away in the low southwest in the early evening. Mike Lynch, Twin Cities, "Skywatch: Super chilled starry nights," 29 Dec. 2019 If a spacecraft could carry a repulsive antenna beaming out VLFs, this could work like the device that repels deer from around your vehicle, generating a radiation-free envelope for the craft to travel through. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "How Would You Scrub Radiation from Space After a Nuclear Attack?," 27 Dec. 2019 Shelly thrust a box into Elaine’s lap, beaming while Elaine unwrapped a ceramic bowl and collar. Shannon Fitzgerald, Fortune, "Your Non-Rational Holiday Gifting Habits Are Officially Driving Behavioral Economists Crazy," 18 Dec. 2019 Old-growth spans and beams meld with a clean steeliness throughout. oregonlive, "2019 Portland Brewery of the Year: Ruse Brewing is this beer city’s rising star," 18 Dec. 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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Time Traveler for beam

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for beam

Last Updated

20 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Beam.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 24 January 2020.

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More Definitions for beam


How to pronounce beam (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for beam

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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).


a feeling of well-being or elation

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