\ ˈstēm \

Definition of steam 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a vapor arising from a heated substance

2a : the invisible vapor into which water is converted when heated to the boiling point

b : the mist formed by the condensation on cooling of water vapor

3a : water vapor kept under pressure so as to supply energy for heating, cooking, or mechanical work also : the power so generated

b : active force : power, momentum got there under his own steam sales began to pick up steam also : normal force at full steam

c : pent-up emotional tension needed to let off a little steam

4a : steamer sense 2a

b : travel by or a trip in a steamer


steamed; steaming; steams

Definition of steam (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to give out as fumes : exhale

2 : to apply steam to especially : to expose to the action of steam (as for softening or cooking)

intransitive verb

1 : to rise or pass off as vapor

2 : to give off steam or vapor

3a : to move or travel by the agency of steam

b : to move or proceed with energy or force

4 : to be angry : boil steaming over the insult

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Synonyms for steam

Synonyms: Verb

boil, burn, foam, fume, rage, rankle, seethe, sizzle, storm

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Examples of steam in a Sentence


Careful, the steam from the pot is hot. The boat runs on steam. He wiped the steam from the mirrors. He was afraid he would run out of steam before the end of the race. I was making good progress this morning, but now I'm starting to run out of steam.


a steaming bowl of soup She prefers to steam carrots rather than boil them. Their breath steamed the windows.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

When my grandma came back from the store with a dozen Krispy Kremes, my eyes bugged out of my skull and my tongue unfurled from my mouth like a carpet and steam blew out of my ears. Madeleine Aggeler, The Cut, "Are Homemade Doughnuts Worth the Effort and Fire Hazard?," 13 July 2018 The second book compasses the long history of water-going vessels, from Mesopotamian rafts, Greek triremes and Viking longships to the ages of sail and steam and beyond. Meghan Cox Gurdon, WSJ, "Children’s Books: So Much to See—and Talk About," 12 July 2018 Some of his images, like one of sweating young women scrubbing sheets in a haze of boiling steam, are quite beautiful. Martin Brennan, New York Times, "Review: Sinfulness and Scares Behind ‘The Devil’s Doorway’," 12 July 2018 Meanwhile, the summit is erupting almost every day with steam or ash, said Janet Snyder, spokeswoman for the County of Hawaii, where Kilauea is located. Terray Sylvester And Jolyn Rosa, The Christian Science Monitor, "Scientists brave dangers studying active Hawaii volcano," 11 July 2018 That's when organizers sent two steam locomotives running at top speeds on the same track barreling toward each other in a spectacular crash that was caught on camera. David Caraccio, sacbee, "Now the 1913 California State Fair had serious entertainment: See two trains collide at 90 mph," 11 July 2018 President Trump is moving full steam ahead to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, announcing he's already interviewed four candidates. Maureen Groppe, Indianapolis Star, "What Supreme Court contender Amy Coney Barrett has said about abortion and 9 other issues," 8 July 2018 This is just Trump's effort to take this country full steam backwards. Fox News, "Democrats target SCOTUS candidate Amy Coney Barrett," 6 July 2018 The song also drew 7 million U.S. steams in the same tracking week. Gary Trust, Billboard, "Hot 100 Chart Moves: Demi Lovato Debuts, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj Add Their Fifth Shared Hit," 6 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The fried shrimp and catfish — the latter brought in from Breaux Bridge, Louisiana — is steaming hot, plump and sweet, well-seasoned and encased in a crisp, piping-hot cornmeal crust. Dominic Armato, azcentral, "Eat Here First: 3 new restaurants to try before everybody else does," 13 Mar. 2018 After marrying Annette Whitney in 1880, the couple steamed to Sitka for their honeymoon. Ned Rozell, Anchorage Daily News, "A scientist’s view of Alaska, 150 years ago," 11 Mar. 2018 For example, Yoo tops a familiar item like kimchi salad with an unexpected pomegranate drizzle, and freshens up fermented steamed abalone with fish liver sauce and black sesame. Laura Kiniry, Smithsonian, "Four Restaurants Bringing Traditional Dishes into Contemporary Cuisine," 23 Feb. 2018 Baking them at home in a crust of salt is a great way to cook them, or simply cover the potatoes and steam them. Noelle Carter,, "A world renowned chef on cooking what may be Peru's most famous food — and it's probably in your kitchen," 24 May 2018 Those processors use the fish, particularly menhaden, to lure crabs, bring them back to their facilities and steam them. NBC News, "Trump's visa changes are clawing a famous crab town. And they voted for him.," 15 May 2018 White House chief of staff John Kelly is reportedly steamed that Shulkin has twice publicly exaggerated the power he’s been given by the White House to fire underlings. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "White House Says VA Secretary Shulkin Is Safe … for Now," 26 Mar. 2018 But my favorite way of eating it is eating fresh – after steaming it with a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil. Soon Kang, charlotteobserver, "Olympic host region known for simple, heartwarming fare | Charlotte Observer," 20 Feb. 2018 That was me over a steaming bowl at Moon Rabbit Ramen. Liz Biro, Indianapolis Star, "The insanely good ramen you should eat in Indianapolis right now," 9 Jan. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'steam.' 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 steam


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


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

History and Etymology for steam


Middle English stem, from Old English stēam; akin to Dutch stoom steam

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Statistics for steam

Last Updated

9 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for steam

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

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More Definitions for steam



English Language Learners Definition of steam

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the hot gas that is created when water is boiled

: steam that is created by a machine and kept under pressure to provide power

: very small drops of water that form on a surface when warm air that contains a lot of water is cooled down



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

: to produce steam

: to cook, heat, or treat (something) with steam

: to cause (something, such as a piece of glass) to become covered with small drops of water


\ ˈstēm \

Kids Definition of steam

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the vapor into which water is changed when heated to the boiling point

2 : steam or the heat or power produced by it when kept under pressure Some houses are heated by steam.

3 : the mist formed when water vapor cools

4 : driving force : power By the end of the day, I had run out of steam.


steamed; steaming

Kids Definition of steam (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to give off steam or vapor The cocoa steamed fragrantly in the saucepan … —Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

2 : to rise or pass off as steam Heat steamed from the pipes.

3 : to move or travel by or as if by the power of steam The ship steamed out of the harbor. She steamed past the fancy brick entrance to the golf course … —Carl Hiaasen, Hoot

4 : to expose to steam (as for cooking)

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Comments on steam

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


the setting in which something occurs

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