\ 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 Investigators said the dog leash was purchased that morning and was wrapped around the main support beam in the basement and two dining room chairs were knocked over next to the children, according to the station. Fox News, "Pennsylvania mom charged with murder in hanging deaths of her two children," 3 Dec. 2019 Mranata beckoned us over to one of the beams and placed his finger inside a white nest, in which a swiftlet chick was huddled. 1843, "My quest to understand the appeal of bird’s nest soup," 22 Nov. 2019 And at some point, dynamite blasting farther out in the channel destroyed the port side of the second wreck—but the starboard side of her hull still looms about 5m high, to the level of the deck beams. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "400-year-old warships in Swedish channel may be sisters of doomed Vasa," 20 Nov. 2019 The researchers then tried changing the intensity of the laser over time to match the frequency of a human voice, aiming the beam at the microphones of a collection of consumer devices that accept voice commands. Wired, "Hackers Can Use Lasers to ‘Speak’ to Your Amazon Echo or Google Home," 4 Nov. 2019 Tony Rizza, the major donor for the facility named after him, puts the final signature on the beam before it was raised into place. Alex Putterman,, "UConn stadium construction on schedule; baseball venue expected to open for 2020 season," 24 Oct. 2019 When the practice courts were upgraded to all-LED lighting, the original light’s beam wasn’t bright enough to be seen on the wall. Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times, "NBA preview: Clippers start title chase with a clean slate," 21 Oct. 2019 To fit in with the neighborhood, the new store has retained much of the original detail of the Fort Point building where it’s located, from the brick walls to the exposed beams, Maguire said., "Local Trader Joe’s fans will soon have access to more of the chain’s signature “Joe Joe’s” and other goods, with a third Boston location opening in the Seaport district later this month.," 19 Oct. 2019 Red and white checkered tables are tucked inside and around these structures, with twinkle lights strung around the beams and on the ceiling accentuating the candlelit ambiance. Lindsey Mcclave, The Courier-Journal, "Das ist gut! Gasthaus serves up 100% authentic German deliciousness in Louisville," 16 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Now comes fashion, intent on mining this eerie aesthetic for impact by releasing onto the runways streams of bloodless-looking models who seemed to have beamed down from Neptune or Mars. New York Times, "It’s Halloween. Here’s What’s Haunting the Runways.," 29 Oct. 2019 The company’s ultimate plan is to beam high-speed Internet links to homes and other locations almost anywhere via a receiver about the size of a pizza plate. Lee Roop |, al, "Can Elon Musk’s SpaceX bring high-speed Internet to Alabama?," 13 Sep. 2019 But for many military platforms, like spy planes and satellites, the point is to beam back raw data that might be turned into useful intelligence. The Economist, "Artificial intelligence is changing every aspect of war," 7 Sep. 2019 But the group University of Buffalo researchers found a way to beam the emissions in a narrow, upward direction. Chase Purdy, Quartz, "Scientists are using the cold of outer space to rethink air conditioning," 5 Aug. 2019 Armstrong set up a pallet of 100 circular laser reflectors, designed to beam to Earth the reflections of laser beams. Houston Chronicle, "Armstrong and Aldrin Take ‘One Small Step for Man’ on the Moon," 21 July 2019 Every photo of Grandma Joy beaming in front of the shore or a magnificent forest is somehow purer than the last. Aj Willingham, CNN, "A grandma's amazing adventure, a sweet soccer fan and a few thousand acres of sunflowers," 17 Aug. 2019 The company's fleet of 140 satellites beams back 1.2 million images a day. NBC News, "Tiny, privately owned satellites are changing how we view the Earth," 2 Nov. 2019 One photo is a portrait of her immediate family taken in 1971; her mother and father standing in the center of things, beaming with pride, while her 10 siblings gather around. Ray Mark Rinaldi, The Know, "Renluka Maharaj’s latest show digs deep into family, home and glitter," 26 Oct. 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

8 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Beam.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 15 December 2019.

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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).


delight or enjoyment

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