\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for steam

Synonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The reopening trade, so to speak, doesn’t appear to be running out of steam despite mounting Covid-19 cases in parts of the country. Jj Kinahan, Forbes, "On The Cusp: Week Starts Near Record Highs Two Days Ahead Of Earnings Season," 12 Apr. 2021 The eruptions came a day after officials raised the alert level following several small tremors detected at the volcano, with clouds of steam seen erupting from its peak. New York Times, "Caribbean Volcano Erupts, Spewing Ash and Smoke for Miles," 9 Apr. 2021 Clouds of steam could also be seen from the observatory during the periods of tremors. Anneclaire Stapleton, CNN, "St. Vincent on red alert for 'imminent' volcanic eruption," 8 Apr. 2021 With about 15 minutes left in the hour Joe Biden allotted last week for his once-only press conference, the president sort of ran out of steam for questions and filibustered the time remaining by delivering his campaign speech. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, "Joe Biden, Which Side Are You On?," 31 Mar. 2021 However, the bullpen ran out of steam Sunday with five pitchers combining to give up 11 runs, as the Horns were unable to record the sweep. Dallas News, "How Texas’ collegiate baseball teams fared this week: Tech, UT start Big 12 play with winning weekends," 22 Mar. 2021 Adding to the fun is the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which makes its home here, the high whistle of the steam locomotive calling you to the possibility of a ride. Tracey Minkin, Southern Living, "Plan Your Best Vacation Ever," 9 Mar. 2021 There is no time limit on the process, which normally ends when objecting senators run out of steam. Sarah D. Wire, Los Angeles Times, "Senate Democrats to end weekly $400 COVID-19 unemployment in August, not September," 4 Mar. 2021 Alas, Jones ran out of steam and was rejected by the rim. Nick Moyle, San Antonio Express-News, "Texas' Kai Jones flashes X-factor potential in win," 2 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 Some machines will even steam the milk for a cappuccino. Jeff Harper,, "Automatic espresso machines vs. manual espresso machines," 11 Mar. 2021 The mussels should steam open after a couple of minutes in the wine. Wes Siler, Outside Online, "How to Choose Your Own Adventure in Baja," 9 Mar. 2021 After the score, the Steelers started on their own 7, and on the first play Roethlisberger pump-faked to Wallace, giving defensive tackle Howard Green time to steam past guard Chris Kemoeatu and hit Roethlisberger’s arm., "'We came out like a whirlwind tornado'," 19 Feb. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about steam

Time Traveler for steam

Time Traveler

The first known use of steam was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for steam

Last Updated

16 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Steam.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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)

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!