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See more synonyms for gleam on Thesaurus.com
  1. a flash or beam of light: the gleam of a lantern in the dark.
  2. a dim or subdued light.
  3. a brief or slight manifestation or occurrence; trace: a gleam of hope.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to send forth a gleam or gleams.
  2. to appear suddenly and clearly like a flash of light.
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Origin of gleam

before 1000; (noun) Middle English glem(e), Old English glǣm; cognate with Old High German gleimo glowworm; akin to Old Saxon glīmo brightness; (v.) Middle English, derivative of the noun See glimmer, glimpse
Related formsgleam·ing·ly, adverbgleam·less, adjectiveout·gleam, verb (used with object)un·gleam·ing, adjective


See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com
1. Gleam, glimmer, beam, ray are terms for a stream of light. Gleam denotes a not very brilliant, intermittent or nondirectional stream of light. Glimmer indicates a nondirectional light that is feeble and unsteady: a faint glimmer of moonlight. Beam usually means a directional, and therefore smaller, stream: the beam from a searchlight. Ray usually implies a still smaller amount of light than a beam, a single line of light: a ray through a pinprick in a window shade. 4. shine, glimmer, flash, glitter, sparkle, beam.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for gleam

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Then she fluttered a glance at him in which there was a gleam of mockery.


    William J. Locke

  • She was smiling now, and he caught a gleam of mischief in her eyes.


    William J. Locke

  • No, her head was fallen, and he saw the gleam of her hand at her breast.

  • She opened her eyes with a gleam of eagerness to hear the words.

  • How black is the great tower, and how bright the gleam of arms upon the wall!

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

British Dictionary definitions for gleam


  1. a small beam or glow of light, esp reflected light
  2. a brief or dim indicationa gleam of hope
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verb (intr)
  1. to send forth or reflect a beam of light
  2. to appear, esp brieflyintelligence gleamed in his eyes
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Derived Formsgleaming, adjectivegleamy, adjectivegleamingly, adverb

Word Origin

Old English glǣm; related to Old Norse gljā to flicker, Old High German gleimo glow-worm, glīmo brightness, Old Irish glē bright
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for gleam


Old English glæm "brilliant light; brightness, splendor, radiance," from Proto-Germanic *glaimiz (cf. Old Saxon glimo "brightness;" Middle High German glim "spark," gleime "glowworm;" German glimmen "to glimmer, glow;" Old Norse glija "to shine, glitter"), from root *glim-, from PIE *ghel- "to shine, glitter, glow" (see glass).

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early 13c., from gleam (n). Related: Gleamed; gleaming.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper