Definition of steam in US English:



  • 1The vapor into which water is converted when heated, forming a white mist of minute water droplets in the air.

    • ‘I watched the white steam rising with the shadow of itself following.’
    • ‘Three or four clapped-out old busses grouped in the darkness, clouds of steam, people standing about waiting to be told where to go, what to do.’
    • ‘Matt moved to the front of the car and picked up the hood to unleash another huge cloud of white steam.’
    • ‘She wiped steam from the mirror and ran a comb through her hair.’
    • ‘Your first day driving around Iceland you spend most of your time pointing out to whoever you are with every cloud of steam rising from the side of the road.’
    • ‘He carefully poured some of the flask's contents into a cup from which rose a thin column of white steam.’
    • ‘They should not be clouded by steam, frost, water droplets or tarnished by cracks or scratches.’
    • ‘Without warning a cloud of white steam poured forth from the rock wall in front of her, and she lost her footing momentarily.’
    • ‘I walked up to it and I saw white steam being sucked under the door.’
    • ‘Wisps of light purple steam rise from the heated water contained in stylish vessels around the Aromatherapy Health Resort inside the City Hotel.’
    • ‘He came out of the bathroom a few minutes after trailing steam and heated droplets of water.’
    • ‘If spots seem dried on, boil water in a glass cup a few minutes; steam should loosen soil.’
    • ‘Internal combustion engined vehicles were converted to run on steam or gas and had contraptions attached that made them look more akin to vehicles in Star Wars.’
    • ‘Then the snow and rain turned to steam on the heated road surfaces, this steam floated off like fog, which caused several car accidents.’
    • ‘You may also notice clouds of steam magically rising from out of the ground around the city and wonder what is going on.’
    • ‘But every one or two minutes, the placid water erupts in an explosion of mud, followed by a plume of white steam.’
    • ‘By forcing water down into the rocks, the heated water would produce steam which in turn could be used to drive power generating turbines.’
    • ‘Liquid ammonia is heated with water drawn from near the surface of the ocean and converted into steam.’
    • ‘So the cameras would gingerly peer through the steam and mist to reveal eleven fit, young men romping around in the soapy waters of a huge bath.’
    • ‘We walked through a yak herder's camp where great black beasts snorted columns of white steam.’
    water vapour, condensation, mist, haze, fog, exhalation, moisture, dampness
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 The invisible gaseous form of water, formed by boiling, from which vapor condenses.
      • ‘This signals something called a phase transition, like when steam cools and condenses into water.’
      • ‘The German habit of experimenting came to the fore even at such a time, and there were many detail variations as well as major ones, such as condensing the exhaust steam.’
      • ‘For example, when you boil water, it takes the gaseous form of steam, but this gas doesn't react with oxygen in the air.’
      • ‘Iron also reacts with very hot water and steam to produce hydrogen gas and with most acids and a number of other elements.’
      • ‘Natural gas, boiling water, and steam will heat the wood effectively and allow the cooper to bend the staves without the creation of blisters on the inside of the staves.’
      • ‘Both gauges burst and there was a mass of steam and boiling water.’
      • ‘When steam and later compressed air were available for drilling the holes and dressing the quarry blocks, the use of granite proliferated.’
      • ‘The intense steam of the shower condensed on the glass door of the stall, only the outline of her body visible, as Ethan stepped in to the bathroom.’
      • ‘So now they're powering their mill for nothing, selling off the surplus energy to the grid, and condensing the steam to make hot water they can pipe into the locals' homes.’
      • ‘He also noted how much heat was needed to turn ice into cold water, or boiling water into steam: the phenomenon of latent heat.’
      • ‘Since Einstein we have known that energy and matter are two forms of the same thing, as steam and ice are two forms of water.’
      • ‘This heat can be used to boil water, producing steam to run a turbine that turns an electric generator.’
      • ‘York grabbed the cup with a shaky hand, popping the plastic top off, condensed steam on the inside edge before it all wafted out into York's face.’
      • ‘The steam from a boiling pot emits smells of paprika and spices that wash over the kitchen's somewhat acrid, greasy-spoon aroma.’
      • ‘The water is recycled and reused, but it is still a very costly method of extraction because it takes a lot of natural gas to create steam.’
      • ‘Touted by some as water's purest form, distilled water is produced by condensing steam from boiled water back into its liquid state.’
      • ‘This energy (as heat) is released when the steam condenses to water and the water cools to the temperature of skin.’
      • ‘If you were the steam of a boiling pot of water and you hit the wall, the wall would be so cool that you would quickly become a liquid.’
      • ‘Even better would be a location close to an existing manufacturing site that offers excess steam or electric power as a byproduct.’
      • ‘The steam then cools and condenses to form purified water.’
      moisture, water droplets
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 The expansive force of steam used as a source of power for machines.
      ‘the equipment was originally powered by steam’
      as modifier ‘a steam train’
      • ‘Use immersion blender or cappuccino machine steam attachment to froth carrot foam mixture.’
      • ‘Murrays' Mills in Ancoats are 200 years old and were among the first buildings in the world to use steam to power machines.’
      • ‘Applying pressure to the garment The pressure comes from the head of the pressing machine, while steam is diffused through the bottom.’
      • ‘Crowds billowed on to East Lancashire Railway platforms where two newly refurbished steam machines were wheeled out for all to see.’
      • ‘With the arrival of steam as a power source, doctors could treat hysteria in the office using new devices developed for this purpose.’
      • ‘The heat and exhaust gases are captured and utilized to provide electrical power and steam for laundry facilities.’
      • ‘In these cases, well operators sometime use a steam drive, or continuous steam injection, to force the oil out.’
      • ‘The pressure from this steam forced the piston upward once it was high enough to counteract the weight and atmospheric pressure on the cylinder.’
      • ‘They can be cut and burnt to produce steam to power turbines.’
      • ‘There are no boilers, no engine and no remains of auxiliary machinery or steam pipes, just a big gap in the middle of the wreck left by some long-forgotten salvage company.’
      • ‘The most important category is the generation of electric power from geothermal steam.’
      • ‘He entered the navy a midshipman in the era of cannon balls and oak hulls powered by sail, and retired as admiral of a fleet of steel, powered by steam, that fired huge shells thousands of yards.’
      • ‘The Industrial Revolution was powered by steam and coal - not oil.’
      • ‘Initially, I was disappointed to discover that today's PoW is kitted out more modestly and powered not by steam but by diesel.’
      • ‘In gradually substituting steam for stream power in their manufactures, they lessened the impact of drought or flood.’
      • ‘The canal-side steam powered the weaving mill, in Clitheroe Road, which was built before 1879 and added to in 1891 and 1910.’
      • ‘Off this is a well appointed en suite bathroom which is fully tiled in white and fitted with a bidet, wash hand basin, and a power shower cubicle with steam room facility.’
      • ‘Other industrial archaeological sites include nineteenth-century steam machinery and vacuum pans, as well as the rum distilleries.’
      • ‘Nuclear power plants used enriched uranium as fuel to make steam to turn turbines which generate electricity.’
      • ‘Kew is home not only to some great steam machines but is also an interactive paradise for kids, 11 am to 5pm daily.’
    3. 1.3 Locomotives and railroad systems powered by steam.
      ‘the last years of steam’
      • ‘For generations, its very name has conjured up the glory days of Britain's railways when steam was king and every town had a station.’
    4. 1.4 Energy and momentum or impetus.
      ‘the anticorruption drive gathered steam’
      • ‘Once the campaign gathered steam, the Trust had to take an interest in the matter, and found that its first lines of defence were inadequate to it.’
      • ‘Some of the heat and pressure will be taken off if the multi-billion dollar push to rebuild and extend Australia's rail networks gets up a decent head of steam.’
      • ‘Even tax hikes in the budget are unlikely to choke off the current market's head of steam, Britain's biggest building society predicted on Friday.’
      • ‘However, the signals emanating from high-level briefings make it clear that a head of steam is once more building in Washington towards more drastic action.’
      • ‘In five minutes flat even the grumpiest kid there was bent over in a fit of laughter, as the parade of the looniest gestures imaginable gathered steam.’
      • ‘But they really started to get up a head of steam when the United Nations started to take credit for the work that the American military was doing.’
      • ‘And your ideological compatriots in the media might not be able to get up much of a head of steam banging the table for a bunch of hot dog magnates.’
      • ‘The movement for reparations from countries engaged in the African slave trade is building up a head of steam.’
      • ‘I'm hoping he has a rhetorical head of steam coming into this debate.’
      • ‘Delegates were sceptical because they had seen the head of steam built up through strike action last year allowed to seep away.’
      • ‘A campaign to get more bank holidays is gaining a head of steam.’
      • ‘As it gathered steam, I was greatly impressed with several moments, but a corny line or an awkward coincidence was always around the bend.’
      • ‘Unquestionably, Dean already has a full head of steam.’
      • ‘One of their big players got up a head of steam and charged at me.’
      • ‘Already the no side has developed a significant head of steam with multiple and well-publicised launches and high-profile figures involved.’
      • ‘We had beaten them already and they were after building up a head of steam through the qualifiers.’
      • ‘So any proposal involving Primakov is potentially tainted before it even gets a full head of steam.’
      • ‘The gloom lifted as quickly as it came this year, when prices for some prime properties soared by 40 per cent as the Hong Kong economy gathered steam.’
      • ‘Hundreds of flights to and from the midwestern and northeastern United States were cancelled on Saturday and road traffic slowed to a crawl as the storm gathered steam.’
      • ‘Hence I hit the mike with a full head of steam, overcharged and full of momentum.’
      energy, vigour, vigorousness, vitality, stamina, enthusiasm
      View synonyms


  • 1no object Give off or produce steam.

    ‘a mug of coffee was steaming at her elbow’
    • ‘They were quickly served and tasted best when still steaming.’
    • ‘Adam jerked his thumb over to the stove where the coffee pot was steaming on the hot plate.’
    • ‘You'll get delicate, herb-infused fish steamed gently in their own juices.’
    • ‘When I throw a switch it steams dangerously and coffee drizzles from many unpredictable valves.’
    • ‘If a pipe breaks, the 500 degree water would blow off as steam, tearing off plant insulation and coatings.’
    • ‘The coffee cup still steamed, though it had sat empty for the best part of the last half hour.’
    • ‘Listeners ought to hear the sleigh bells ring, see the vivid red of the velvet dress and smell the spicy potpourri steaming on the stove.’
    • ‘Well, I still have a cough, though it's much diminished, yielding ground day by day to a steady trickle of hot rum toddies served steaming at appropriate times.’
    • ‘Her mother paid the bill and Ekat grabbed the tea, which was still steaming gently.’
    • ‘The cutlets are great, so is the chutney, though the ‘masala dosas’ might not be as steaming as you would like.’
    • ‘As the sun pushes over the ridge, the earth steams.’
    • ‘Nearby, the Huka Falls are gushing forth, the sulphurous earth steams eerily and sludgy geysers are grumbling and occasionally completely losing their cool.’
    • ‘And on September 24, kettles will be steaming away as the World Biggest Coffee Morning rolls into action.’
    • ‘Ruth loved the smell of the rainwater steaming off the asphalt; that sensation, more than any other, defined summer.’
    • ‘Because of a storm the previous day, the ground was literally steaming.’
    • ‘As I type, an angry thunderstorm is rolling across the skies and the rain is lashing down onto the scorched pavements; now gently steaming.’
    • ‘Caleb's computer was on and his coffee cup was steaming but he wasn't in sight.’
    • ‘The coffee steamed and I flopped out on my bunk, keeping a careful eye on the clock.’
    • ‘As my train arrived, the monsoon abruptly stopped, the sun came out, leaving me gently steaming on platform five at Reading.’
    1. 1.1steam up" or "steam something up Become or cause something to become covered or misted over with steam.
      ‘the glass keeps steaming up’
      with object ‘the warm air had begun to steam up the windows’
      • ‘Seafood addicts crowd around the bar, and if enough people order chowder or the grilled lobster (split in half, over lava coals), the big storefront windows steam up a little.’
      • ‘I know that the water is in a pan, that the hob the pan is on is green, and that steam from the pan is steaming up the kitchen windows.’
      • ‘The windows were steamed up and Mr Palmer was inside.’
      • ‘When she cooked rabbit stew, or a lovely jam roly-poly in iron pots, the windows steamed up while I turned the fan for the open fire.’
      • ‘His face was covered by a see-through plastic, which steamed up with his breath every twenty seconds or so, and his eyes might flutter open, or his face contort into another horrible position.’
      • ‘There could be too much damp in the car, so when the interior heats up the water that has leaked in begins to evaporate and, as fast as the heater tries to demist it, the windscreen steams up again.’
      • ‘Early technical hitches were quickly overcome to deliver a block rockin’ set for the crowd who loved every minute of it - the windows were steamed up good.’
      • ‘Mr Lips looked at my distorted alien face through my mask, which was beginning to steam up, and looked a little concerned.’
      • ‘And peaking just over the tops of the tin roofs, you can see two double-decker buses, their windows steamed up and their occupants bundled up in huge padded anoraks.’
      • ‘The windows are steamed up, streaming the condensed exhaled breath of all and sundry, including the alcoholic who's presently drooling on your new coat.’
      • ‘She tried the other out of curiosity, and was amazed when hot water surged out, beginning to steam up the room immediately.’
      • ‘However, on a rainy Monday morning, the windows are steaming up thanks to John Charles's constant queue of damp customers.’
      • ‘I can't keep my crash helmet's visor down while driving, because it steams up as soon as I exhale, and I have a 25-minute journey to work.’
      • ‘As we were sitting on the couch reading, we noticed the windows were steaming up.’
      • ‘He had been patrolling at the far end of one of the Council car parks when he came across a camper van with the windows completely steamed up.’
      • ‘We would neck in the car until the windows were steamed up with our passion.’
      • ‘Last night I went in and picked up some books and the windows were all steamed up.’
      • ‘Mohsen looks like a Lebanese workmen's cafe, its windows permanently steamed up and blotched with notices and stickers.’
      • ‘‘I thought it was suspicious that the back windows were all steamed up even though it was a cool evening,’ Mr Rauscher explained.’
      • ‘Then he returned home to find his Sandringham Street shop windows steamed up, water coming through the ceiling and stock floating across the floor.’
      mist, mist up, fog, fog up, become misted, become misty, become covered with condensation
      View synonyms
  • 2with object Cook (food) by heating it in steam from boiling water.

    ‘steam the vegetables until just tender’
    • ‘Preparation and cooking: Use young leaves in salads; steam or braise mature leaves.’
    • ‘Rubel burns a fire down to embers and braises vegetables, simmers spelt, roasts fish, and even steams a chocolate cake, all at his fireplace.’
    • ‘To cook raw chestnuts, you can either roast, steam, or boil them - or throw them in a rice cooker like I did this time around.’
    • ‘Place the dumplings on the prepared steaming rack and steam the dumplings until the skins are soft, about 15 minutes.’
    • ‘Add the cabbage and stir-fry it for five or six minutes, splashing in 3 tbsp water to help steam the cabbage, until it is tender.’
    • ‘To steam food, it is held over boiling liquid and the heat is transmitted by water vapour surrounding the food, and condensing on it.’
    • ‘After explanation of the fish come general hints on how to cook fish, from deep frying, steaming, broiling and cooking it in butter.’
    • ‘Just brown the pasta in oil first, add broth and cook until the pasta is tender, then steam some seafood quickly on top.’
    • ‘Sometimes we choose to steam our vegetables, sauté them in some olive oil or mix them with our salad greens.’
    • ‘Prepare a hot steamer basket and steam the pork until tender, about three hours.’
    • ‘You can steam carrots anyway you like - just add more cooking time for larger pieces.’
    • ‘In a school context this stir fry should be re-producible either in a series of large pans or by blanching or steaming the vegetables very briefly and then warming them through in the oven.’
    • ‘I boiled the winkles and steamed the potatoes as quickly as I could.’
    • ‘Steam the ingredients for twenty minutes, then serve.’
    • ‘The recipe has you steam carrots and zucchini in sticks, and layer them with a batter made of fresh goat cheese, eggs and faisselle.’
    • ‘Besides the icing cakes, the bakers have steamed a plum pudding that may well rock the regular variety.’
    • ‘While steaming the rice, sauté some garlic, onions and green peppers in a teaspoon of olive oil for five minutes.’
    • ‘Make sure there's enough water in the pot to steam the meat and fish, so if it's looking a bit dry, add some more boiling water.’
    • ‘Remove the plastic wrap and steam the bread until cooked.’
    1. 2.1no object (of food) cook by being heated in steam from boiling water.
      ‘add the mussels and leave them to steam’
      • ‘With the flavours intensifying as the food simultaneously steams and roasts, and no juices lost or boiled away, the end result is bags of flavour (sorry).’
      • ‘The Dum ki Kumbh, stir-fried button mushrooms steam cooked in a traditional Kashmiri gravy.’
      • ‘On a few food-vendor's stalls the bamboo baskets of buns still steamed and the tables in the houses were set.’
      • ‘Freshly cooked mekitsa steamed on our plates and a delicious aroma drifted up from the freshly brewed coffee.’
      • ‘Grilling, steaming or microwaving food rather than frying or roasting means less fat is added during cooking.’
      • ‘With practice, one may sauté, bake, steam, braise, simmer, or sear just about anything.’
      • ‘In the centre is a small mound of saffron palau (basmati rice steamed with saffron).’
      • ‘Protected in its nest of agave leaves, the meat would steam away for hours before carefully being dug from the pit.’
      • ‘If you want the greatest nutritional value from your corn, how should you eat it: raw, quickly steamed or thoroughly cooked?’
      • ‘A note on the menu invites diners to consider the advice of servers in deciding whether to order their dish steamed, grilled or fried.’
      • ‘Peel the potatoes and lay them on top of the casserole, so they will steam while the stew cooks.’
      • ‘There is not a human being in sight but food still steams on a cooker inviting the hungry parents with its aromas.’
      • ‘Preserved soya bean steamed with cured meat is delicious and very salty as well.’
      • ‘This is the time to experiment with some of those new veggie recipes you've been cutting out of magazines, or just enjoy the vegetables steamed with some herbs and a little butter or olive oil.’
      • ‘But wood-fired ovens go far beyond bread, and are capable of roasting, broiling, steaming or braising.’
      • ‘I also had a local specialty for lunch - white roses are prawn meat steamed inside wonton wrappers.’
      • ‘By cooked I mean steamed, baked or lightly sautéed, not fried.’
      • ‘The tipang, a pork leg first steamed then cooked in the wok with delicious sauce and spices, is irresistible.’
      • ‘Yellow rice wine, pork meat steamed on lotus leaves, eight ingredients cake and zongzi are the specialities of Xitang and you can taste them in all the restaurants in the town.’
      • ‘The staple food, boiled or steamed, is served with a sauce of leaves, flavored with dried fish or shellfish, and vegetables.’
    2. 2.2 Clean or otherwise treat with steam.
      ‘he steamed his shirts in the bathroom to remove the wrinkles’
      • ‘My ex-brother-in-law worked in a western wear store and had his hats cleaned and creased by a fellow who steamed the headgear and shaped the brim along the curves of his own beer belly.’
      • ‘It may help to steam clean carpeting at least once a year.’
      • ‘We put in new mahogany faces on the bar counters, re-varnished the tables, steam cleaned the carpets, had the chairs recovered and put in new curtains.’
    3. 2.3with object and complement or adverbial Apply steam to (something fixed with adhesive) so as to open or loosen it.
      ‘he'd steamed the letter open and then resealed it’
      • ‘He went to the kitchen and boiled water, then took the letter and steamed the envelope open so as not to damage it.’
      • ‘I remember hearing that if you hold a sealed envelope over steam it opens it up so you can be all spy like and open it without harming the parcel.’
      • ‘He took it back to his house, and steamed open all of the bills, letters, Social Security checks and anything else of interest.’
      • ‘You can get to know them even better if you steam the letters open first.’
      • ‘Carefully, in case she found that she needed to reseal it, she steamed the envelope open and peeled away the fold.’
      • ‘Detectives shadowed him on board a transatlantic liner, and during his stay in New York even steamed open his post at his hotel.’
  • 3no object, with adverbial of direction (of a ship or train) travel somewhere under steam power.

    ‘the 11:54 steamed into the station’
    • ‘On 7 February, a train steamed into Leningrad after having passed through the corridor and crossed the Neva on track laid over the ice.’
    • ‘All boats steamed ashore for shelter as the winds and sea caused havoc along the coast.’
    • ‘During almost ten years in commission, the ship has steamed nearly 110,000 miles and visited 81 ports in 14 countries.’
    • ‘It was noon next day when he stood on the platform, the train breathing steam alongside like an impatient dragon or an old scholar puffing poppy heads.’
    • ‘Since the first trains steamed out of Oxenhope in 1978, Angela, 66, of Bingley, has worked on every one of the four trips a year.’
    • ‘A train steams deep into the mountainside giving tourists a closer look at huge stalactites and stalagmites.’
    • ‘As the two 18, 500-tonne assault ships steamed around the Channel, Albion's sponsor, the Princess Royal, visited the vessel for the first time at sea.’
    • ‘Families and guests enjoyed the views of Sydney harbour and coastline as the ship steamed for Broken Bay, positioning at the starting line off Barrenjoey Head.’
    • ‘As the sun rose, we could make out the near vertical cliffs rising out of the ocean and the ship steaming right between them.’
    • ‘The landing ship has steamed more than 24,000 miles during her deployment.’
    • ‘In the dark of night, a 150-foot yacht packed to the gunwales with explosives slowly steams toward Naval Station Norfolk.’
    • ‘Since leaving the UK at the beginning of the year, the ship has steamed 42,000 miles, discharged 60,000 tonnes of oil, and refuelled ships 95 times.’
    • ‘The following vessels steamed into a group of trawlers which had not been told of the evening's movements.’
    • ‘The full majesty of the vehicle can best be viewed from elsewhere - take advantage of this when you get off at any of the stops and look around for the trains steaming through the countryside.’
    • ‘The ship is currently steaming from San Lorenzo, northwest of Buenos Aires in Argentina, after leaving the port on March 27.’
    • ‘Long shots of Commodore Jackson's boat steaming along the river provide a sense of spaciousness and leisure.’
    • ‘West of Hawaii, the ship steamed through a ferocious north Pacific storm.’
    • ‘Again they radioed for it to pull up, but the ship steamed on.’
    • ‘US, Japanese and Australian naval ships are steaming toward the area with on-board hospitals and water desalination plants.’
    • ‘The ship held two memorial services, one at dawn in Seychelles harbour and one at sunset as the ship steamed on the journey home from distinguished service in Operations Slipper and Falconer.’
    1. 3.1informal Come, go, or move somewhere rapidly or in a forceful way.
      ‘Jerry steamed in ten minutes late’
      figurative ‘the company has steamed ahead with its investment program’
      • ‘The second half saw a change of pace as the Rosenallis / Clonaslee lads piled on the pressure and started to dominate the game which saw them steam ahead.’
      • ‘The new chairman is steaming ahead on a huge sea of goodwill from the supporters.’
      • ‘Work is expected to steam ahead in October on a £3 million centre in ‘forgotten’ Horton Grange.’
      • ‘Bury's East Lancashire Railway has been given the green light to steam ahead with plans to renovate the town's historic Bury Transport Museum.’
      • ‘This manga-based masterpiece steams ahead on so many levels and with so much depth, detail and mind-bending imagery that your brain barely has time to catch up with itself.’
      • ‘The Council and developer are already steaming ahead and preparing the £20 million Connecting the City scheme.’
      • ‘But having been here for a considerable length of time, it has struck me that as Shanghai steams ahead in the new millennium, it still remains inextricably linked with its near-forgotten past.’
      • ‘An appeal launched by the National Railway Museum to save locomotive Flying Scotsman for the nation is steaming ahead, the Yorkshire Post can reveal.’
      • ‘The latest jobs report shows that the economy is steaming ahead.’
      • ‘They steam implacably ahead while the rest of us flail about in a sea of moral relativism and get nothing but mental cramp for our trouble.’
      • ‘A project to recreate a piece of Bolton's industrial heritage is steaming ahead thanks to a 5,000 donation.’
      • ‘The home side however steamed ahead from early on with a good cross in from Michael Clowry which was finished in style by Cathal O'Brien.’
      • ‘It is an approach that gains steam as the movie moves forward and gives the film's climax a powerful sense of the inevitable.’
      • ‘The application for the amendments is a milestone in the progress of the scheme because it is one of the last pieces in the jigsaw before things can steam ahead.’
      • ‘So, finally and belatedly, the idea that is creeping up is that of a two-speed Europe, in which a hard core of integrationist states steams ahead in the direction of a United States of Europe.’
      • ‘Now the Forster Square Development Partnership is set to steam ahead with the city-centre project which already has planning consent.’
      • ‘Moves are steaming ahead to honour an Atherton-born boffin whose vision of a high speed hovertrain was dismissed.’
      • ‘He said this week that the project is steaming ahead, with building work hoped to start next year.’
      • ‘Playing with the wind at their backs in the first half the Clonaslee lads steamed ahead as they broke through the Belmont defence and dominated the game.’
      • ‘That is not a recipe for re-electing an incumbent who took responsibility for the now-slowing recovery when it was steaming ahead.’
      sprint, race, dart, rush, dash, hasten, hurry, scurry, scuttle, scamper, hare, bolt, bound, fly, gallop, career, charge, pound, shoot, hurtle, speed, streak, whizz, zoom, sweep, go like lightning, go hell for leather, go like the wind, flash, double
      run, sprint, race, dart, rush, dash, hasten, hurry, scurry, scuttle, scamper, hare, bolt, bound, fly, gallop, pound, shoot, hurtle, speed, streak, whizz, zoom, sweep, go like lightning, go hell for leather, go like the wind, flash, double
      View synonyms
    2. 3.2steam inBritish informal no object Start or join a fight.
    3. 3.3often as noun steaminginformal no object (of a gang of thieves) move rapidly through a public place, stealing things or robbing people on the way.
    4. 3.4with object Operate (a steam locomotive).
      • ‘Myth and symbol, however, attach less readily to an elemental melange: it is an iron horse that steamed its way across the American plain, the iron fist that represents a display of might.’
  • 4often be/get steamed upinformal Be or become extremely agitated or angry.

    ‘you got all steamed up over nothing!’
    ‘after steaming behind the closed door in his office, he came out and screamed at her’
    become agitated, get worked up, get overwrought, get flustered, panic, become panic-stricken
    become very angry, become enraged, go into a rage, lose one's temper
    View synonyms


  • have steam coming out of one's ears

    • informal Be extremely angry or irritated.

      • ‘New York's electoral votes are all going to go to Kerry whether New Yorkers have steam coming out of their ears or are lounging around watching sports and laughing and drinking.’
      • ‘And, if he wanted to make the back row even hungrier than usual, he has achieved it superbly because Alex has steam coming out of his ears.’
      • ‘On badly depressing days I could walk around with a black cloud over my head, if I was feeling stressed I could have steam coming out of my ears.’
      • ‘My face's so hot, if I were a cartoon, I'd have steam coming out of my ears.’
      • ‘Stacy looked as if she could have steam coming out of her ears.’
      • ‘Like his colleagues around the table at Macleans College, he practically has steam coming out of his ears.’
      • ‘He had steam coming out of his ears as things were slipping out of control.’
      • ‘Earlier for the sake of simplicity I told a little fib, and some of you have steam coming out of your ears by now because this fib is driving you crazy.’
  • in steam

    • (of a steam locomotive) ready for work, with steam in the boiler.

      • ‘The heritage railway, which runs from Toddington to Cheltenham Racecourse, will have five Swindon-built locomotives in steam on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.’
      • ‘Machine power, manifested in steam, internal combustion, and jet engines, provides strategic and tactical mobility and logistic lift to armed forces.’
  • let (or blow) off steam

    • informal (of a person) get rid of pent-up energy or strong emotion.

      • ‘But many voters see the referendum as a chance to let off steam over what they regard as the government's economic policy failures.’
      • ‘That was a raucous blast of rock energy, Adams letting off steam.’
      • ‘I needed something to help them blow off steam and energy.’
      • ‘Caroline, who is a part-time support worker for Young Carers, believes children such as Steffanie need a weekly outlet to let off steam and be children.’
      • ‘Surprisingly the defence that this is war, or that our enemies do worse, hasn't been made as loudly made as when troops tortured prisoners to let off steam.’
      • ‘Sometimes I think the only thing they achieve is that people can let off steam.’
      • ‘If your child is bursting with energy, let him run around to let off steam before moving on to more calming activities.’
      • ‘But she just didn't understand why she couldn't run around and let off steam with the other dogs.’
      • ‘We've danced to let off steam, to express ourselves and get rid of excess energy, we've danced to attract a partner and for religious reasons.’
      • ‘Playing does much more than just help kids let off steam, according to City of York Council, which has launched an initiative to get more youngsters enjoying themselves.’
      give vent to one's feelings, speak one's mind, sound off, lose one's inhibitions, let oneself go
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  • run out of steam

    • informal Lose impetus or enthusiasm.

      ‘a rebellion that had run out of steam’
      • ‘Sandy Neilson's production, enthusiastically performed by the resident company, strikes an appropriate, rollicking tone but gradually runs out of steam.’
      • ‘I'd like watch as each argument just runs out of steam, leaving just the prejudice and chauvinism for all to see.’
      • ‘It is laid back, ambling on its jolly way, and just when it should be gathering momentum it runs out of steam.’
      • ‘The trend already seems to be running out of steam, due to market oversaturation.’
      • ‘The McCartney campaign is gently running out of steam now, not because the need to find the killer is any less urgent, but simply because the elections are over and the media is getting bored with it.’
      • ‘There is no sign yet of the inexorable rise in property prices running out of steam… and according to market experts fears that the bubble will burst are unfounded.’
      • ‘The two very sexy stars provide enough chemistry in this stylized thriller but the movie runs out of steam halfway through.’
      • ‘However, better to have such a change on the radar screens, say the bulls, than deepening doubts that the US and global recovery were running out of steam.’
      • ‘In following years protests continued but the peace movement (both locally and internationally) seems to be running out of steam.’
      • ‘That said, Richard commented that rising interest rates does mean that buying power is already running out of steam at the high end of the market and is more noticeable in certain parts of the country.’
  • under one's own steam

    • (with reference to travel) without assistance from others.

      ‘we're going to have to get there under our own steam’
      • ‘The seamen were carried bodily back across the moor although some of them could walk under their own steam.’
      • ‘Here, unlike in England and Wales, the public have rights of access to any waterway - be it under your own steam or as part of an organised event.’
      • ‘Although they came with English-speaking guides, transport and some refreshments, we soon learned it was possible to do the trips under your own steam and at a fraction of the price.’
      • ‘All you can do is toast the brave men who power up here under their own steam.’
      • ‘Cut down on car use: use public transport or even travel under your own steam where possible!’
      • ‘‘These delegates often travel under their own steam and bring a partner so are therefore likely to stay on for an extra weekend,’ a spokesman for VisitScotland said.’
      • ‘In Scotland trafficking is still quite rare with most of the sex workers who travel to Britain doing so under their own steam.’
      • ‘He prefers to travel under his own steam, free of deadlines and the constriction of a commission.’
      • ‘But I've set off down this road, and I should at least travel some distance under my own steam before deciding to turn back and simply be a passenger on someone else's mystery train.’
      • ‘If you are travelling under your own steam to a dive site in the same country, a large bag that takes everything, with an extending handle and a set of wheels so that you can move it, is probably the answer.’
      unaided, unassisted, without help, without assistance, independently, by oneself, by one's own efforts, on one's own two feet
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  • under steam

    • (of a machine) being operated by steam.

      • ‘The Prince Consort beam engine at the Grade II listed Crossness Pumping House will be under steam during an open day in Belvedere Road, Abbey Wood, this Sunday between 10.30 am and 4.30 pm.’
      • ‘He and Mr Stevenson were on the last train pulled by Flying Scotsman under steam on May 4, 1968.’
      • ‘It was scrapped July 1953, and was probably the last T - 1 under steam.’
      • ‘As always, the dredge took an age to reach the seafloor and, after the usual several hours of towing under steam, yet another age before it reached the surface again, finally arriving back at 5 o'clock in the afternoon.’
      • ‘The King, which last operated under steam about 1946, came close to destruction several times until it was converted to a floating hotel here.’
      • ‘The MFV Reaper the flag ship of the Scottish Fisheries Museum made the trip from the Arbroath boat building yard of MacKay's in blustery conditions under steam of a new engine fitted as part of the £120,000 six-month overhaul.’
      • ‘That's experienced railroading, You got the hostler to bring around something that was under steam and couple her up behind the diesel.’
  • pick up (or get up) steam

    • 1Generate enough pressure to drive a steam engine.

    • 2(of a project in its early stages) gradually gain more impetus and driving force.

      ‘his campaign steadily picked up steam’
      • ‘Television star Thompson entered the race later than the other candidates and has yet to pick up the steam on the campaign.’
      • ‘The experience of the past year has forced the company to reorient its strategy, including a few steps in reverse, in order to pick up steam.’


Old English stēam ‘vapor’, stēman ‘emit a scent, be exhaled’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch stoom ‘steam’.