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: a transient appearance of subdued or partly obscured light
the gleam of dawn in the east
: a small bright light
the gleam of a match
: glint
a gleam in his eyes
: a brief or faint appearance
a gleam of hope
gleamy adjective


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gleamed; gleaming; gleams

intransitive verb

: to shine with or as if with subdued steady light or moderate brightness
: to appear briefly or faintly
a light gleamed in the distance

transitive verb

: to cause to gleam
Choose the Right Synonym for gleam

flash, gleam, glint, sparkle, glitter, glisten, glimmer, shimmer mean to send forth light.

flash implies a sudden outburst of bright light.

lightning flashed

gleam suggests a steady light seen through an obscuring medium or against a dark background.

lights gleamed in the valley

glint implies a cold glancing light.

glinting steel

sparkle suggests innumerable moving points of bright light.

the sparkling waters

glitter connotes a brilliant sparkling or gleaming.

glittering diamonds

glisten applies to the soft sparkle from a wet or oily surface.

glistening wet sidewalk

glimmer suggests a faint or wavering gleam.

a distant glimmering light

shimmer means shining with a wavering light.

a shimmering satin dress

Example Sentences

Noun He saw the gleam of a flashlight in the distance. the rich gleam of the polished wood Verb The sun gleamed on the water. His eyes were gleaming with delight.
Recent Examples on the Web
This longtime fave has a rich texture, yet leaves zero grease or gleam. Jasmine Washington, Seventeen, 10 Nov. 2022 Against Rom’s set, the rich textures and colors (even the gleam of the armor) felt like a celebration of detail — a contrast of grand and intimate that served Verdi well. Michael Andor Brodeur, Washington Post, 23 Oct. 2022 About 99% of people living in the United States and Europe spend their nights beneath the gleam of artificial lights, according to a 2016 report published by The New World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness. Mackenzie Wagoner, Vogue, 18 Oct. 2022 The floor is painted white so that when all the walls are open to the air, the interior of the structure glows, picking up the sun in the day and the gleam of the lanterns and the stove at night. Sunset Magazine, 31 Aug. 2022 Social media has infused natural wine with a gleam of marketability as a lifestyle totem. Jordan Michelman, Bon Appétit, 19 Oct. 2022 Chan drew Tsukino's face with a gleam in her blue eyes, laugh lines, and a golden headband on the middle finger. Gabi Thorne, Allure, 19 Oct. 2022 Off on the horizon, there is a different gleam, one that’s brighter. Sarah Bowman, The Indianapolis Star, 13 Sep. 2022 Revelling in his authority, Hollander has a permanent gleam in his eye, a malevolent hint at the power-hungry madness simmering beneath his fascinatingly maintained calm surface. David Benedict, Variety, 14 July 2022
Their hair is still glorious; their teeth gleam like satellites. Leah Greenblatt,, 19 Oct. 2022 Here, at the outskirts, the other galaxy merging with your own would gleam in the darkness, bigger and brighter than any star. Marina Koren, The Atlantic, 17 Aug. 2022 The music grew diffuse, those nuances that detail Dvorak’s fascination with Black musical vernaculars felt unarticulated, and what was supposed to gleam often felt, well, glum. Michael Andor Brodeur, Washington Post, 6 Aug. 2022 During the summer, when the sun spends months above the horizon, the inner parts of the animals’ eyes, a structure called the tapetum lucidum, gleam a shimmering gold. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 28 June 2022 Emerald-green grasses compete for attention with knee-high dandelion puffs, while closer to the ground blue violets and yellow mock strawberry blossoms gleam like jewels. Nara Schoenberg, Chicago Tribune, 26 May 2022 Jets still scream and muscles still gleam in the ridiculous and often ridiculously entertaining sequel, though in several respects, the movie evinces — and rewards — an unusual investment of brainpower, writes film critic Justin Chang. Laura Blasey, Los Angeles Times, 13 May 2022 Smith, a former Dr. Who, excels at the poor-little-rich-boy villainy of his character, a tragic aristocrat whose eyes gleam with mania. Leah Greenblatt,, 31 Mar. 2022 Small details gleam from the corners — the rippling beta-carotene richness of each furry panda filament; the excitable sidekick (Hyein Park) so tightly wound that even her affirmations come out like a WWE scream. Leah Greenblatt,, 7 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gleam.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History



Middle English gleem, from Old English glǣm; akin to Old English geolu yellow — more at yellow

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1508, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of gleam was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near gleam

Cite this Entry

“Gleam.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



: a small briefly visible light : glint
: a brief or faint appearance : trace
gleam of hope
gleam verb

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