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: a transient appearance of subdued or partly obscured light
the gleam of dawn in the east
: a small bright light
the gleam of a match
: glint
a gleam in his eyes
: a brief or faint appearance
a gleam of hope
gleamy adjective


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gleamed; gleaming; gleams

intransitive verb

: to shine with or as if with subdued steady light or moderate brightness
: to appear briefly or faintly
a light gleamed in the distance

transitive verb

: to cause to gleam
Choose the Right Synonym for gleam

flash, gleam, glint, sparkle, glitter, glisten, glimmer, shimmer mean to send forth light.

flash implies a sudden outburst of bright light.

lightning flashed

gleam suggests a steady light seen through an obscuring medium or against a dark background.

lights gleamed in the valley

glint implies a cold glancing light.

glinting steel

sparkle suggests innumerable moving points of bright light.

the sparkling waters

glitter connotes a brilliant sparkling or gleaming.

glittering diamonds

glisten applies to the soft sparkle from a wet or oily surface.

glistening wet sidewalk

glimmer suggests a faint or wavering gleam.

a distant glimmering light

shimmer means shining with a wavering light.

a shimmering satin dress

Examples of gleam in a Sentence

Noun He saw the gleam of a flashlight in the distance. the rich gleam of the polished wood Verb The sun gleamed on the water. His eyes were gleaming with delight.
Recent Examples on the Web
The multifaceted pigments in each of the nine shade-shifting hues (ranging from opalescent pink to metallic bronze) give lids a holographic gleam. Liana Schaffner, Allure, 21 Sep. 2023 Then, as a new century fires up, tons of fame-hungry bands pounce on it, polish its lofty sadness to a gleam, then roll it out to Warped Tour, to MTV, to Myspace, to Hot Topic, and ultimately, to the bank. Chris Richards, Washington Post, 21 Sep. 2023 Cooper, as an actor, has always had a preternatural gleam. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 2 Sep. 2023 Place additional candles around the arrangement to make the silver—and your guests' faces—gleam in the light. Southern Living Editors, Southern Living, 4 Sep. 2023 Shimmering pastels are pigmented from the shades of Earth’s metals; the slow patina of aging copper and the delicate gleam of alloyed steel. India Espy-Jones, Essence, 9 Aug. 2023 But Garcia was the fighter who, apparently, most made his eye gleam. Tyler R. Tynes, Los Angeles Times, 27 Apr. 2023 Yet, beneath the sparkle of celebrity and the gleam of success lies a beating heart: a team of dedicated professionals who value teamwork and harmony above all else. Jon Stojan, USA TODAY, 13 July 2023 The plaster would have made the burial ground gleam white, a unique and permanent feature in the landscape. Matti Friedman, Smithsonian Magazine, 21 June 2023
Gomez wears a blue collared shirt and gold hoop earrings while Peltz Beckham wears a moto jacket, navy top and large gleaming silver earrings. Michelle Lee, Peoplemag, 27 Sep. 2023 Its rapturous central fugue, its searing sonority and plunging depths were all brought to gleaming life. Michael Andor Brodeur, Washington Post, 24 Sep. 2023 Hints of soft peach glitter gleamed at showgoers from the runway. Kathleen Hou, ELLE, 9 Sep. 2023 From sparkling foil-like silver to gleaming gold (see Charithra Chandran’s look) to dramatic bronze, metallics dominated. Laura Jackson, Vogue, 15 Sep. 2023 At the golden hour, the corn stalks gleamed and the onset of fall seemed a little less dreadful. Sofia Jeremias, The Salt Lake Tribune, 13 Sep. 2023 Scorpio October 23-November 21 Your reputation is positively gleaming right now. Tarot Astrologers, Chicago Tribune, 3 Sep. 2023 Below us, as the haze dissipates, the island gleams green, a swath of velveteen shaped, to my mind, like nothing more symbolic than the webbed foot of a goose. WIRED, 26 Aug. 2023 Cook’s, as it’s widely known, has hundreds of gleaming Harleys and other bikes parked out front on weekends, and riders and their girlfriends in full leathers enjoying rounds of beer and shots of whiskey. Christopher Cann, USA TODAY, 24 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'gleam.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English gleem, from Old English glǣm; akin to Old English geolu yellow — more at yellow

First Known Use


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


1508, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of gleam was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near gleam

Cite this Entry

“Gleam.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a small briefly visible light : glint
: a brief or faint appearance : trace
gleam of hope
gleam verb

More from Merriam-Webster on gleam

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