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  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.
verb (used without object)
  1. to send forth a gleam or gleams.
  2. to appear suddenly and clearly like a flash of light.

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

Synonyms for gleam

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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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for gleaming


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

Word Origin for gleam

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 gleaming



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



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).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper