\ ˈstēm How to pronounce steam (audio) \

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
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

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Examples of steam in a Sentence

Noun 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. Verb 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 That kind of tactic may be gaining steam elsewhere, too. James Griffiths, CNN, "Singapore just used its fake news law. Critics say it's just what they feared," 29 Nov. 2019 Carbon offsets first gained steam around 2006, after the Kyoto Protocols went into effect. Heather Hansman, Outside Online, "How to Go Green on Black Friday," 26 Nov. 2019 More:As Tesla preps 'Cybertruck,' electric pickups gain steam. Kevin Wheeler, USA TODAY, "Ford wants a rematch after Tesla's Cybertruck pulled an F-150. Musk says 'bring it on'," 26 Nov. 2019 Plus, hunting with guns was gaining steam, negating the need for birds to catch wild prey. Jennifer Billock, Smithsonian, "Six Spots Around the World Where You Can Try Your Hand at Falconry," 15 Nov. 2019 As the subpoenas stack up, the impeachment inquiry is gaining steam less than three weeks after House leaders opened it. Nicholas Fandos, New York Times, "Seeking Ukraine Aid Records, House Subpoenas White House Budget Office and Pentagon," 7 Oct. 2019 That campaign gained steam with the arrival on the scene of Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Author: Ben Fox, Matthew Lee, Anchorage Daily News, "U.S. ambassador pressed for Ukraine corruption fight before being ousted," 28 Sep. 2019 That campaign gained steam with the arrival on the scene of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Matthew Lee, The Denver Post, "Removal of U.S. ambassador to Ukraine emerging as key event in whistleblower complaint," 27 Sep. 2019 Britain’s push for renewable power gained steam in 2008, when the Climate Change Act required greenhouse-gas emissions in 2050 to be at least 80% below their level in 1990. The Economist, "Lessons from Britain, the world’s biggest offshore wind market," 21 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Attendees will be immersed in physical self-care with heart-opening Vinyasa yoga taught by Koya Webb and a yoni steaming workshop with Ashley Asatu. Jasmine Grant, Essence, "Black Girl In Om To Host Their Annual Wellness Day In San Francisco," 29 Oct. 2019 Known as Bogoslof, the volcano vents only 100 meters below sea level, with remnants of past eruptions forming a steaming lagoon at the ocean’s surface (above). Paul Voosen, Science | AAAS, "Underwater volcano belched explosive bubbles larger than a stadium," 14 Oct. 2019 If Brown was a major annoyance with helmet, foot and commitment-to-the-team issues, imagine piling this latest news on the top of the steaming pile. Scott Ostler,, "Turns out Raiders got lucky with Antonio Brown," 11 Sep. 2019 The release plans for one of Netflix’s most expensive films yet had been a subject of much conjecture ever since the steaming service greenlit Scorsese’s film. Jake Coyle,, "Netflix to give Martin Scorsese’s crime epic ‘The Irishman’ exclusive theatrical release," 27 Aug. 2019 The release plans for Netflix's most expensive film had been a subject of much conjecture ever since the steaming service greenlit Scorsese's film. Jake Coyle, Fortune, "Netflix’s ‘The Irishman’ Won’t Have a Wide Theatrical Release," 27 Aug. 2019 Ships steaming into New York Harbor would be met by a small boat from Ellis Island carrying immigration inspectors, who would board to quickly examine the first and second-class passengers, many of whom were not immigrants. Paul Thompson, National Geographic, "How Ellis Island shepherded millions of immigrants into America," 13 Nov. 2019 Just ask Teyonah Parris, who took to Instagram to chronicle her wash day process at the salon, from steaming to a blow-dry. Amanda Mitchell, Allure, "Teyonah Parris Documented Her Salon Day, and Her Natural Hair Is a Mile Long," 1 Oct. 2019 After steaming on the grill, the flesh turned white. Jesse Pearson,, "Fly fishing for ‘sewer salmon’ in the L.A. River," 11 July 2019

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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Time Traveler for steam

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for steam

Last Updated

2 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

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

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More Definitions for steam


How to pronounce steam (audio)

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 How to pronounce steam (audio) \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on steam

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for steam

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with steam

Spanish Central: Translation of steam

Nglish: Translation of steam for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of steam for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about steam

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).


delight or enjoyment

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