\ 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 Whiskey Row, Prescott Park the car and enjoy the kind of afternoon once experienced by cowboys, miners and ranchers looking to blow off some steam around the turn of the 20th century. Scott Craven, azcentral, "Ready for a post-Thanksgiving road trip? See the best of Arizona in these 8 places," 26 Nov. 2019 With Ryle at its own 7, the senior running back broke free from a couple of tackles on the line, picked up some steam, then sprinted past the SK defense. James Weber,, "Kentucky high school football: Freshman QB, seniors lead Simon Kenton to district title," 26 Oct. 2019 Maybe consider blowing off steam by honking at strangers, wagging your tail-feather, and causing a general ruckus about town. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, "Google and Copyright ‘Blackmail’—Data Sheet," 30 Sep. 2019 There are signs the housing market will start to pick up steam in the coming months, said Chris Thornberg, economist and founding partner of Beacon Economics. San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego home price down annually for first time in 7 years," 25 Sep. 2019 At my daughter’s high school, the teens vape when the teacher’s back is turned and blow the steam into their shirt. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: Trump’s bad California rollback (9/21/19)," 22 Sep. 2019 The search for Mann picked up steam a few years ago when some U.S. marshals attended a fugitive task force conference sponsored by the Toronto police, who were leading the Canadian kidnapping case. David Owens,, "Canadian man suspected of kidnapping son in 1987 and living under assumed name in Vernon pleads guilty to federal charge, faces extradition to Canada," 22 Aug. 2019 There’s farm-fresh homemade vegetarian food, a steam bath dug out of a rock and a yoga room. Danielle Braff, Houston Chronicle, "10 of the world's most beautiful places to unplug," 27 Dec. 2019 An autism rights movement gains steam From John Schmid's Oct. 24 story: Few populations have been as misdiagnosed as people with autism. David D. Haynes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The Ideas Lab reports on how to solve problems in Wisconsin. Here are a few things we looked at in 2019.," 27 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb One worker tends the boiler and stuffs plastic into the fire while others steam the soybeans and skim off the pulp. Richard C. Paddock, New York Times, "To Make This Tofu, Start by Burning Toxic Plastic," 14 Nov. 2019 The list is 85 dishes long, in groups of steamed or fried, of noodles or soups, of things sweet or stir-fried. Mike Sutter,, "Review: Dim Sum Oriental Cuisine rises above San Antonio’s quiet Chinese restaurant scene," 7 Nov. 2019 Eat the molluscs steamed or slurp them down raw for just a dollar a piece. Trevor Fraser,, "Get $1 oysters at Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen," 29 Oct. 2019 And while the majority of Lao dishes are grilled, steamed or boiled, Phia Sing has a fondness for frying. Austin Bush, Los Angeles Times, "The king ate sticky rice: Cooking, past and present, in Luang Prabang, Laos," 1 Oct. 2019 When the potatoes stop steaming and have cooled slightly, drizzle the egg over the surface of the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Taking the gnocchi challenge," 1 Oct. 2019 Detroit Free Press Grab the hot dogs, steam the buns and choose your condiments. Sue Selasky, Detroit Free Press, "Detroiters ate an awful lot of hot dogs last year. Here are the numbers," 2 July 2019 Once steaming, turn Instant Pot to the keep warm function and serve. Jais Tollette, USA TODAY, "How to make mulled wine in an Instant Pot," 23 Dec. 2019 Even the firmest vegetables can be steamed in a matter of minutes. Becky Krystal, Washington Post, "Slow cookers vs. multicookers (a.k.a. Instant Pots): Which is right for you?," 23 Dec. 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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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

14 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Steam.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 24 January 2020.

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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).


a feeling of well-being or elation

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