View synonyms for beam


[ beem ]


  1. any of various relatively long pieces of metal, wood, stone, etc., manufactured or shaped especially for use as rigid members or parts of structures or machines.
  2. Building Trades. a horizontal bearing member, as a joist or lintel.
  3. Engineering. a rigid member or structure supported at each end, subject to bending stresses from a direction perpendicular to its length.
  4. Nautical.
    1. a horizontal structural member, usually transverse, for supporting the decks and flats of a vessel.
    2. the extreme width of a vessel.
    3. the shank of an anchor.
  5. Aeronautics. the direction perpendicular to the plane of symmetry of an aircraft and outward from the side.
  6. the widest part.
  7. Slang. the measure across both hips or buttocks:

    broad in the beam.

  8. Machinery.
    1. (in a loom) a roller or cylinder on which the warp is wound before weaving.
    2. a similar cylinder on which cloth is wound as it is woven.
  9. the crossbar of a balance, from the ends of which the scales or pans are suspended.
  10. a ray of light:

    The sun shed its beams upon the vineyard.

  11. a group of nearly parallel rays.
  12. Radio, Aeronautics. a signal transmitted along a narrow course, used to guide pilots through darkness, bad weather, etc.
  13. Electronics. a narrow stream of electrons, as that emitted from the electron gun of a cathode ray tube.
  14. the angle at which a microphone or loudspeaker functions best.
  15. the cone-shaped range of effective use of a microphone or loudspeaker.
  16. Citizens Band Radio Slang. beam antenna.
  17. a gleam; suggestion:

    a beam of hope.

  18. a radiant smile.
  19. the principal stem of the antler of a deer.

verb (used with object)

  1. to emit in or as in beams or rays.
  2. Radio. to transmit (a signal) in a particular direction.
  3. Radio and Television. to direct (a program, commercial message, etc.) to a predetermined audience.

verb (used without object)

  1. to emit beams, as of light.
  2. to smile radiantly or happily.


/ biːm /


  1. a long thick straight-sided piece of wood, metal, concrete, etc, esp one used as a horizontal structural member
  2. any rigid member or structure that is loaded transversely
  3. the breadth of a ship or boat taken at its widest part, usually amidships
  4. a ray or column of light, as from a beacon
  5. a broad smile
  6. one of the two cylindrical rollers on a loom, one of which holds the warp threads before weaving, the other the finished work
  7. the main stem of a deer's antler from which the smaller branches grow
  8. the central shaft of a plough to which all the main parts are attached
  9. a narrow unidirectional flow of electromagnetic radiation or particles

    a beam of light

    an electron beam

  10. the horizontal centrally pivoted bar in a balance
  11. informal.
    the width of the hips (esp in the phrase broad in the beam )
  12. a beam in one's eye
    a beam in one's eye a fault or grave error greater in oneself than in another person
  13. off beam
    off beamoff the beam
    1. not following a radio beam to maintain a course
    2. wrong, mistaken, or irrelevant
  14. on the beam
    on the beam
    1. following a radio beam to maintain a course
    2. nautical opposite the beam of a vessel; abeam
    3. correct, relevant, or appropriate


  1. to send out or radiate (rays of light)
  2. tr to divert or aim (a radio signal or broadcast, light, etc) in a certain direction

    to beam a programme to Tokyo

  3. to pass (data, esp business card details, etc) from one hand-held computer to another by means of infrared beams
  4. intr to smile broadly with pleasure or satisfaction

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Derived Forms

  • ˈbeaming, adjectivenoun
  • ˈbeamy, adjective
  • ˈbeamless, adjective
  • beamed, adjective
  • ˈbeamˌlike, adjective

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Other Words From

  • beamless adjective
  • beamlike adjective
  • outbeam verb (used with object)
  • un·beamed adjective
  • under·beam noun

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Word History and Origins

Origin of beam1

First recorded before 900; Middle English beem, Old English bēam “tree, post, ray of light”; cognate with Old Frisian bām, Old Saxon bōm, Dutch boom, Old High German boum ( German Baum ), Gothic bagms, Old Norse bathmr tree; the identity of the consonant which has assimilated itself to the following m is unclear, as is the original root; perhaps unattested Germanic bagmaz, from unattested bargmaz, from unattested Indo-European bhorǵh-mos “growth”; barrow 2

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Word History and Origins

Origin of beam1

Old English beam ; related to Gothic bagms tree, Old High German boum tree

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. beam in, Citizens Band Radio Slang. to be received under optimum conditions; be heard loud and clear:

    They told me I was really beaming in.

  2. fly the beam, Radio, Aeronautics. (of an aircraft) to be guided by a beam.
  3. off the beam,
    1. not on the course indicated by a radio beam.
    2. Informal. wrong; incorrect:

      The pollsters were off the beam again for the last presidential election.

  4. on the beam,
    1. on the course indicated by a radio beam, as an airplane.
    2. Nautical. at right angles to the keel.
    3. Informal. proceeding well; correct; exact:

      Their research is right on the beam and the results should be very valuable.

More idioms and phrases containing beam

see broad in the beam ; off the beam .

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Synonym Study

See gleam. See shine 1.

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Example Sentences

The researchers formed positronium by colliding a beam of positrons with a target, where they met up with electrons.

Droplets spewed from the person’s speech show up neon green in the laser beam, moving like tiny meteor showers.

A laser beam hits the debris in orbit and bounces back to Earth, and ground crews can measure how long that takes to figure out where they are and where they are going, alerting you to possible collisions with other objects.

Meanwhile, the beams going the opposite way have their wavelength compressed by their shorter path.

But, like the cosmic rays, the beams of light have a marginal effect.

Back then, no one ever imagined needing to beam live video to ground troops from a fighter jet.

Conservative columnist George Will calls him a “cherubic 40-year-old…a human beam of sunshine.”

Her door stands ajar, halving the room with a beam of light.

Outside the lodge, running along its perimeter, was a small ditch lined by posts topped by a chest-high wooden beam.

The pulses are from a beam of light produced by the intense magnetic field, which sweeps across Earth as the neutron star rotates.

The latter went immediately to look for his wife, and found her hidden in an attic, hanging to a beam.

Cast the beam from thine eye before noticing the mote in that of thy neighbour.

It was placed immediately over the shaft and pump-rods, requiring no engine-beam.

A connecting rod worked a balance-beam, which worked the air-pump, feed-pump, and plug-rod for moving the valves.

A large balance-beam was attached to the pump-rods, near the bottom cross-head.


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Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




be alongbeam aerial