\ 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

The minutes showed widespread concern that the economy is losing steam. Washington Post, "Federal Reserve minutes show broad worries about economy," 10 July 2019 North Park began to lose steam after the original trolley system was torn up and shoppers followed the freeway to the nearest mall. San Diego Union-Tribune, "North Park: A hipster’s heaven, coming to you in Vitaphone sound," 30 June 2019 This has to be a genuine part of your personality and not just stem from some motivation that will soon lose steam. Ankit Ruparel, Quartz India, "Are you cut out for an early-stage VC firm in India? Here’s a checklist," 19 June 2019 While officials publicly continue to express optimism and point to the success of its ThinkGeek products division and game hardware sales, the company’s bread and butter, game software sales, has been losing steam for some time now. Chris Morris, Fortune, "Why GameStop Is Thinking About Selling Itself," 19 June 2018 As the civil rights movement lost steam and gave way to the separatism of Black Power, the group spoke from a standpoint of disillusionment, although with vigorous attitude. Giovanni Russonello, New York Times, "Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, ‘Grandfather of Rap,’ Is Dead at 73," 13 June 2018 Greitens finished the week riding high, confident that the effort to impeach him was losing steam. Jason Hancock And Lindsay Wise, kansascity, "Behind the scenes of Eric Greitens' decision to resign. 'No one saw it coming.'," 10 June 2018 Doing its part to keep the cool in Hampden for six years now, the Food Market shows no signs of losing steam. Tim Smith,, "Food Market still draws crowds, delivers imaginative fare in Hampden," 31 May 2018 After weathering decades of political turmoil and changing public sentiment, the American Plan and ultimately lost steam in its most public form. Kim Kelly, The New Republic, "A Forgotten War on Women," 22 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The temperature was warm, above 80 even as the sun set, but not as steaming as Manhattan can get in July. Verena Dobnik And Ali Swenson,, "Manhattan power restored after outage darkens Broadway, Times Square for hours," 14 July 2019 Order: saumon fumé (steamed eggs with smoked salmon) and an espresso. 6. Bon Appétit, "There are restaurant lists with rankings. And there are restaurant lists with purpose. This is the latter.," 9 July 2019 When accepted at all, black veterans typically attended historically black colleges, many of which were underfunded, while whites steamed into flagship universities. Calvin Schermerhorn, Twin Cities, "Calvin Schermerhorn: Why the racial wealth gap persists more than 150 years after emancipation," 27 June 2019 Bones, meanwhile, is known for its noodles — ramen, soba, udon — and steamed buns stuffed with things like pork belly, duck confit and softshell crab. Josie Sexton, The Denver Post, "Nashville hot chicken alert: Lou’s Food Bar from Frank Bonanno is returning from the dead," 27 June 2019 Similarly, a twisted coil of steaming spaghetti needs little besides a butter bath and shower of Parmesan to dazzle your comfort food cravings. Lucinda Scala Quinn, Washington Post, "How to put fancy, high-fat butter to its best use," 21 June 2019 Even after a day of steaming and pulling, the noodles were imperfect, and slow to make — a testament to the demanding technique. Tejal Rao, New York Times, "The Art of Banh Cuon, Vietnamese Rice Rolls," 20 June 2019 What better to stuff a squid with, or garnish a bowl of steaming noodles, or simply spit-roast and scoff? The Economist, "African swine fever spreads to South-East Asia," 20 June 2019 Chapman came steaming around third and was waved in by third base coach Matt Williams. Jerry Mcdonald, The Mercury News, "Chapman’s electric slide holds up as Athletics beat Orioles," 17 June 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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Statistics for steam

Last Updated

15 Jul 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

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