\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

Those tariffs, and the threat of more, may already be putting a damper on manufacturing activity that had been gaining steam. Tory Newmyer,, "Trump tariffs could test unity for Republican candidates in key Senate races," 5 July 2018 Instead, World Cup fever here has only gained steam since Russia easily got out of its group and then upset the Spaniards to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 1970. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "How Russia Gave Itself a Facelift for the World Cup," 4 July 2018 The allegations then gained even more steam after Trump tweeted about the case twice earlier this year. NBC News, "Prosecutors debunk Trump-fueled conspiracy theory about former Wasserman Schultz aide," 3 July 2018 In the past month, the abolish ICE movement has quickly gained steam and entered the mainstream. Jennie Neufeld, Vox, "Vox Sentences: “Abolish ICE” enters the mainstream," 3 July 2018 Nevertheless, the effort is gaining steam with some genetic genealogy experts and investigators. Julian Hattem,, "Investigators say DNA database can be goldmine for old cases," 16 June 2018 The process gained steam last summer when the Tiger-Cats contacted Burkhardt expressing interest in arranging a workout. Alex Prewitt,, "Johnny Manziel’s Last Chance—as a Backup in the CFL," 16 June 2018 As the scene gained steam, Royal Crown Revue attracted a wider audience. Kenneth Partridge, Billboard, "In Defense of the Swing Revival: Why America Flipped for '40s Sounds in 1998," 29 May 2018 His behavior received renewed attention as the #MeToo gained steam, resulting in a #MuteRKelly campaign supported by numerous women of color in the Time’s Up movement. Laura Hudson, The Verge, "R. Kelly is still doing just fine on Spotify," 21 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

There's just something about a steaming mug of coffee, the mercy of a Bloody Mary, the cheerful din of brunching humanity; certain intangible qualities that simply can't be reproduced at home. Sarah Nardi, Chicago Reader, "The Bongo Room turns 25: A look back at Wicker Park's beloved brunch spot," 5 July 2018 Everyone thought they were engaged in June 2017 Once people noticed the matching diamond rings the two were rocking, rumors started to froth and bubble like a steaming vat of Polyjuice Potion. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "6 Things You Need to Know About Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott's Relationship," 21 June 2018 In the past few years, steaming eggs has been my go-to method. Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press, "Here's how to steam eggs and cook potatoes for perfect potato salad," 20 June 2018 Leavitt’s children and grandchildren swung under the cottonwood trees, and all around the family piled plates with steaming beef and roast pork, corn on the cob, squash. Leah Sottile, Longreads, "Bundyville Chapter Two: By a Thread," 16 May 2018 Why Soybeans Are at the Heart of the U.S.-China Trade War One ship laden with U.S. soybeans steaming toward China — the bulk carrier Peak Pegasus — appears to have lost the race to arrive before the import duties were imposed. Fortune, "China Cancels U.S. Soybean Purchases as Trade War Takes Hold," 6 July 2018 In addition to poke, the restaurant will serve steamed buns with a variety of fillings from BBQ pork to pork belly. Joey Morona,, "Cleveland is (finally) getting its own poke restaurant," 30 Jan. 2018 Get your corn fix: Ears of corn, steamed in the husk and served with butter and salt, cost $2. Nancy Stohs, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "6 food festivals that offer a glimpse of Wisconsin specialties and local culture," 6 June 2018 Tian shao bai Sweetened slices of pork belly are steamed and neatly arranged over a mound of sticky rice. Christina Liao, Vogue, "All the Szechuan Food You Should Try in Chengdu, China," 5 June 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

4 Nov 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).


full of whispering sounds

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