\ 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

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

Since protests picked up steam in recent years, 10 states have amended their laws to drop the tax, but 35 have not. Ciara Phelan, Allure, "What Is Femtech, and Is It the New Pink Tax?," 22 Apr. 2019 Bluemel joined Killing Eve just as the show was picking up steam in the States, but hadn't yet jumped across the pond. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Killing Eve's Edward Bluemel on Playing Hugo, MI6's Resident Annoying Rich Kid," 14 Apr. 2019 Jaime Kills Cersei This theory really picked up steam last season, but the evidence has been there for a while. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "All the Game of Thrones Fan Theories You Need to Read Before Season 8 Premieres," 8 Mar. 2019 But looting picked up steam in the 1700s with the Russian colonization of Siberia. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Satellites watch over the graves of ancient steppe nomads," 26 Dec. 2018 Lava from one of the fissures entered Kapoho Bay late Sunday or early Monday, forcing billowing clouds of steam into the atmosphere as hot lava hit the cool water of the Pacific Ocean. Madison Park, CNN, "Lava filled up this Hawaiian bay and destroyed what could be hundreds of homes," 6 June 2018 Since early May, the volcano has burned dozens of homes, forced people to flee, and shot up plumes of steam from its summit. Caleb Jones,, "Hawaii lava reaches sea, injures man," 20 May 2018 Even if no doubt there will be some senseless backlash against him for a loss that was more about a depleted team running out of steam than anything else. Vahe Gregorian, kansascity, "Charmed Loyola-Chicago Ramblers snuff out K-State's memorable season | The Kansas City Star," 24 Mar. 2018 But if the North American turnaround gains steam, investors may have a good deal more to cheer. Elizabeth Winkler, WSJ, "Nike Engineers a Comeback," 20 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Other details to watch for: wood flooring curved by a steaming machine and by hand, the master bedroom bed that runs eight feet in diameter, plus lots of curved storage, walls, and railings. Jenny Xie, Curbed, "Jackie Gleason’s iconic ‘Round House’ yours for $12M," 31 Aug. 2018 In a vineyard on the slopes of this steaming volcano, I was served a glass of full-bodied red wine by a woman who could have been Sophia Loren’s younger cousin. Rick Steves, miamiherald, "It’s got ancient Greek ruins, spicy food and an active volcano. It’s extreme Italy.," 25 Jan. 2018 The Goo Goo Cluster Latte is a delightful blend of rich espresso and steamed milk combined with caramel, milk chocolate, peanut and nougat flavors. Perri Ormont Blumberg, Southern Living, "Cracker Barrel's New Drink Is a Southerner's Dream Come True," 16 May 2018 So, without further ado, peek the best sloughing, soothing, and steaming cloths on the market. Sophie Wirt, Allure, "The 6 Best Muslin Cloths for Exfoliating Your Face, According to Derms," 17 Apr. 2018 And furthermore, how to make fish that is smooth and crisp outside and flaky and steaming inside? Eric Velasco,, "How to make fish and chips for St. Patrick's Day," 16 Apr. 2017 If pancake is steaming and not sizzling, increase heat and add another drop of oil. Milwaukee, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Tasty Korean fare to cook up for the Olympics," 14 Feb. 2018 Havre de Grace Maritime Museum Shrimp and Barbecue Festival Take in the waterfront views while feasting on artisan chef Nic Galloro’s barbecue chicken, pork ribs or steamed shrimp, while sipping a glass of wine or a beer. Allana Haynes,, "Summer festivals, fairs and other events in Harford County and around the state," 24 May 2018 Frying, roasting, broiling and baking certain foods are more likely to create acrylamide, while steaming, boiling or microwaving are less likely to do so. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "California Coffee Companies Must Display Cancer Warning Label, Judge Rules," 30 Mar. 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

3 Jun 2019

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 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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with steam

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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