stem

1 of 6

noun (1)

plural stems
1
a
: the main trunk of a plant
specifically : a primary plant axis that develops buds and shoots instead of roots
b
: a plant part (such as a branch, petiole, or stipe) that supports another (such as a leaf or fruit)
c
: the complete fruiting stalk of a banana plant with its bananas
2
a
: the main upright member at the bow of a ship
b
: the bow or prow of a ship compare stern
3
: a line of ancestry : stock
especially : a fundamental line from which others have arisen
4
: the part of an inflected word that remains after the inflected part is removed
strength is the stem of strengths
also : root sense 6
5
: something held to resemble a plant stem: such as
a
: a main or heavy stroke of a letter
b
: the short perpendicular line extending from the head of a musical note
c
: the part of a tobacco pipe from the bowl outward
d
: the cylindrical support of a piece of stemware (such as a goblet)
e
: a shaft of a watch used for winding
stemlike adjective
a stemlike part
stemlike roots

stem

2 of 6

verb (1)

stemmed; stemming

transitive verb

1
: to make headway against (something, such as an adverse tide, current, or wind)
2
: to check or go counter to (something adverse)

stem

3 of 6

verb (2)

stemmed; stemming

transitive verb

1
: to remove the stem from
2
: to make a stem for (something, such as an artificial flower)

intransitive verb

: to occur or develop as a consequence : have or trace an origin
her success stems from hard work

stem

4 of 6

verb (3)

stemmed; stemming

transitive verb

1
a
: to stop or dam up (something, such as a river)
b
: to stop or check by or as if by damming
especially : stanch
stem a flow of blood
2
: to turn (a ski) in stemming

intransitive verb

1
: to restrain or check oneself
also : to become checked or stanched
2
: to slide the heel of one ski or of both skis outward usually in making or preparing to make a turn

stem

5 of 6

noun (2)

1
: check, dam
2
: an act or instance of stemming on skis

STEM

6 of 6

abbreviation

science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
Phrases
from stem to stern
Choose the Right Synonym for stem

spring, arise, rise, originate, derive, flow, issue, emanate, proceed, stem mean to come up or out of something into existence.

spring implies rapid or sudden emerging.

an idea that springs to mind

arise and rise may both convey the fact of coming into existence or notice but rise often stresses gradual growth or ascent.

new questions have arisen
slowly rose to prominence

originate implies a definite source or starting point.

the fire originated in the basement

derive implies a prior existence in another form.

the holiday derives from an ancient Roman feast

flow adds to spring a suggestion of abundance or ease of inception.

words flowed easily from her pen

issue suggests emerging from confinement through an outlet.

blood issued from the cut

emanate applies to the coming of something immaterial (such as a thought) from a source.

reports emanating from the capital

proceed stresses place of origin, derivation, parentage, or logical cause.

advice that proceeds from the best of intentions

stem implies originating by dividing or branching off from something as an outgrowth or subordinate development.

industries stemming from space research

Examples of stem in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
That approach stemmed partly from the hope among landlords and lenders that the Federal Reserve, after ratcheting up interest rates over the last two years, would ease or cut rates relatively quickly. Julie Creswell, New York Times, 6 June 2024 Decorative Pebbles Filling a clear cylindrical vase with decorative stones or beads is an especially pretty way to hold stems in place. Mackenzie Nichols, Better Homes & Gardens, 6 June 2024 Voters in 2022 also passed AB 1621, which outlawed the sale of firearm parts without a serial number, and which the attorney general’s office said has helped stem the use of ghost guns. Salvador Hernandez, Los Angeles Times, 5 June 2024 Their refusal, says Dr. Carmichael, who co-wrote a study on the Detroit case, stemmed partly from a history of negative experiences with the city. Jingnan Peng, The Christian Science Monitor, 4 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for stem 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'stem.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun (1)

Middle English, from Old English stefn, stemn stem of a plant or ship; akin to Old High German stam plant stem and probably to Greek stamnos wine jar, histanai to set — more at stand

Verb (1)

Middle English (Scots) stemmen to keep a course, from stem entry 1 (of a ship)

Verb (2)

stem entry 1 (of a plant)

Verb (3)

Middle English stemmen to dam up, from Old Norse stemma; akin to Middle High German stemmen to dam up and probably to Lithuanian stumti to shove

First Known Use

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb (1)

1593, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (2)

1724, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Verb (3)

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Noun (2)

1700, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of stem was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near stem

Cite this Entry

“Stem.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stem. Accessed 19 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

stem

1 of 4 noun
1
a
: the main stalk of a plant that develops buds and shoots and usually grows above the ground
b
: a plant part (as the stalk of a leaf or flower) that supports some other part
2
: the bow of a ship
3
: the basic part of a word to which prefixes or suffixes may be added
4
: something held to resemble a plant stem: as
a
: the short upright line from the head of a musical note
b
: the part of a tobacco pipe from the bowl outward
c
: a main or heavy stroke of a letter
d
: the cylindrical support of a piece of stemware (as a wine glass)
e
: a shaft of a watch used for winding
stemless
-ləs
adjective

stem

2 of 4 verb
stemmed; stemming
1
: to remove the stem from
2
: to have or trace a beginning or growth : derive
illness that stemmed from unsanitary conditions

stem

3 of 4 verb
stemmed; stemming
: to make progress against

stem

4 of 4 verb
stemmed; stemming
1
: to stop or check by or as if by damming
stem the flow of blood from the wound
2
: to become checked or stopped
Etymology

Noun

Old English stefn, stemn "stem of a plant, stem of a ship"

Verb

Middle English stemmen "to dam up"; of Norse origin

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