\ˈbēm \

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

One composition in SLOrk's upcoming show introduces a new instrument, created by hanging GameTraks upside down on a beam and weighting them with various wooden blocks. Arielle Pardes, WIRED, "The Aural Magic of Stanford's Laptop Orchestra," 8 June 2018 The Sequence's optical mechanical registers contact by breaking a beam of light. Gordon Mah Ung, PCWorld, "HP's self-cooling Mindframe headset leads a new pack of high-end gaming accessories," 30 May 2018 His series of matches with Okada, as well as the Wrestle Kingdom match with Chris Jericho and the tag team main event at Strong Style Evolved, have placed a bright beam of light on his importance to the international expansion of New Japan. Justin Barrasso,, "Kenny Omega Officially Announces New Japan Show on June 29 at CEO Gaming in Daytona Beach," 14 May 2018 Mahle three consecutive quality starts; Castillo back on the beam in his last two. Paul Daugherty,, "Paul Daugherty's TML: Knee-jerking our way through Cincinnati Reds season is not smart," 10 May 2018 There’s astroturf that is comfortable to sit on and colorful transparent panes that hang down the pathway, casting beams of red, green, blue, and purple light across the building. Tasbeeh Herwees, Bon Appetit, "Karon Davis Is Creating an Underground Art Oasis in the Heart of L.A.," 19 Apr. 2018 The manager unlocked the office door and Dalu and Heuberger walked in, flicking the beams of their flashlights around the dim, carpeted space. James Vlahos, GQ, "The Mystery of the Killer Vacation," 18 Apr. 2018 Schyler Jones continued her dominance at the championships with a career-tying 9.925 on floor to go along with a 9.825 on beam, a 9.900 on vault, and a 9.775 on bars for an all-around score of 39.425. William Wilkerson, star-telegram, "This DFW college just won consecutive gymnastics national titles | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 16 Apr. 2018 Triggs, known as the technology guy in the unit, also purchased his own portable printer and a lidar gun, which uses a beam of light to pinpoint a car's speed, and which he is certified by the department to use. Jessica Anderson,, "Baltimore Police mobile metro unit hits the streets; is credited with helping reduce crime," 12 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

As the curtain closes, Ahmad is the first person out of his seat, clapping hard and beaming. Tim Rohan,, "Michael, Murray and ... OJ? Ahmad Rashad Has Kept His Celeb Friends Close—Most of Them, Anyway," 29 June 2018 When some strangers approached us and regarded me with curiosity, my father beamed. John Blake, CNN, "The blurring of racial lines won't save America. Why 'racial fluidity' is a con," 11 June 2018 Another photograph from the day shows a dapper Carl Philip and a beaming Sofia heading into the ceremony. Maggie Maloney, Town & Country, "The Swedish Royal Family Looked Picture Perfect at a Wedding This Weekend," 6 June 2018 Complete with beaming smiles, Zoe Kravitz, Reese Witherspoon, and Lauren Dern proudly held up tickets to Woodley’s new film, celebrating the resilience of the human spirit and a woman’s ability to survive thousands of miles out in the open ocean. Sarah Midkiff,, "There Is More To This Big Little Lies Cast Photo Than Meets The Eye," 3 June 2018 Their waiting finally came to an end just before 6 p.m., when Kate and William stepped through the double doors of the Lindo Wing with beaming smiles and showed the world their newborn. Christina Boyle,, "Making history: Britain's royal baby boy won't push aside his older sister in line to the throne," 23 Apr. 2018 With television cameras beaming the final moments across live television, the judge paced the floor in Birmingham, eyeing the contestants one last time, then threw a finger at Tease, a sleek two-and-a-half year old whippet. Kyle Swenson, Washington Post, "Britain’s fanciest dog show had just named its ‘best in show.’ Then PETA struck.," 12 Mar. 2018 On the hallway bulletin board are pinned pictures of community events, the Carters beaming with locals. Michael Paterniti, GQ, "Jimmy Carter for Higher Office," 26 June 2018 The floor of the vestibule has decorative terra cotta floor tiles, foyer walls are lined with oak wainscoting, and the ceilings are open-beamed with decorative plaster moldings. Joanne Kempinger Demski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Tour for a cure: Architectural treasure is this year's Breast Cancer Showhouse," 18 May 2018

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

10 Nov 2018

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 \

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 \

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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Comments on beam

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a private place of worship

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