\ 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 Restaurants, bars, gyms, child care facilities and other Anchorage businesses on Monday can operate at full steam for the first time in more than a year, after the Assembly voted to lift many of the city’s COVID-19 restrictions. Alex Demarban, Anchorage Daily News, "Businesses cautiously prepare to boost operations as Anchorage lifts most COVID-19 restrictions," 1 May 2021 The stylish pan is available in eight colors: spice, blue salt, terracotta, sage, heat, steam, char, and lavender. Jenna Sims, Southern Living, "Internet Shoppers Love the Always Pan from Our Place and It's On Major Sale Right Now," 27 Apr. 2021 Streetcars clanged along straight avenues, the elevated thundered above, and the subway ran below, paralleled by conduits for steam, electricity, and telephone. Justin Davidson, Curbed, "New York City Made the Office," 26 Apr. 2021 Place the basket in the pot, cover, reduce to medium heat, and steam until the fish flakes easily, about 10 minutes., "Oranges shine in savory recipes, including chicken and stir-fried beef," 20 Apr. 2021 As stakeholder capitalism gains steam, conservatives, libertarians, and Reagan Democrats have had little choice but to read the headlines in frustration. Daniel Grant, WSJ, "Investment Options for the Unwoke," 16 Apr. 2021 There was a boiler used to pump steam, a refrigeration unit, and two giant vacuum pumps connected to the back of the chamber with rusty four-inch pipes. Mark Synnott, Wired, "Here’s What It Takes to Fly a Drone on Mount Everest," 13 Apr. 2021 Instead, the liberal outrage machine is running at full steam on SB 202, putting fundraising over facts. Brad Raffensperger, National Review, "Setting the Record Straight on Georgia’s New Voter-Access Law," 6 Apr. 2021 In addition to the more common presets, this pressure cooker can also cook eggs, steam vegetables, make yogurt, and bake cake. Gabrielle Hondorp, Popular Mechanics, "The Best Pressure Cookers for Dinner in Minutes," 6 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb If the fish doesn't fit into your pans, steam it in batches., "Recipe: Classic Cantonese steamed cod with ginger and scallions sits on a bed of zucchini," 13 Apr. 2021 The Laugar Spa is rightly one of the most popular attractions, constantly filled with locals who come for a work-out and then steam in a series of shadowy, echoing rooms. John Mariani, Forbes, "Why Now Might Be A Good Time To Visit Iceland," 10 Mar. 2021 One of the best ways to retain the flavor of the pork ribs is to steam them prior to oven baking. Kellie Speed,, "How to slow cook ribs in the oven," 18 Mar. 2021 This 1,300-watt standing steamer has a 0.75-gallon water tank, enough water to steam for up to an hour and a half. Hanna Horvath, NBC News, "6 best clothes steamers and garment steamers of 2021," 25 Mar. 2021 When that goes off, turn off the heat and let the tortillas continue to steam under the lid for 10 more minutes. Paul Stephen, San Antonio Express-News, "The best way to store leftover corn and flour tortillas and how to reheat them," 27 Feb. 2021 Upstairs, the primary suite adds a soaking tub and steam shower. Jack Flemming, Los Angeles Times, "Bryan Cranston’s eco-friendly beach house is up for grabs at $5 million," 26 Feb. 2021 To loosen adhesive tabs, steam your nails in the shower and soak them in oil before lifting up the stickies. Baze Mpinja, WSJ, "How Press-On Nails Became a Glamour Go-To in the Covid Era," 4 Mar. 2021 That turns out to be invaluable data about how each letter might have been folded, so the researchers couldn’t just steam in and tear the things open. Adam Rogers, Wired, "Sleuths Read Old Booby-Trapped Letters Without Opening Them," 2 Mar. 2021

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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Learn More about steam

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

10 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Steam.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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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 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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