1. a heavy steam-powered vehicle having a roller for crushing, compacting, or leveling materials used for a road or the like.
  2. (not in technical use) any similar vehicle with a roller.
  3. an overpowering force, especially one that crushes all opposition with ruthless disregard for individual rights.
verb (used with object)
  1. to crush or flatten with a steamroller.
  2. to overcome with superior force: to steamroller the competition.
  3. to bring about the adoption of by overwhelming pressure: to steamroller the resolution through.
verb (used without object)
  1. to proceed with implacable force.
  1. suggestive of a steamroller; ruthlessly overpowering: steamroller tactics.

Origin of steamroller

First recorded in 1865–70; steam + roller1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for steam-roller

Historical Examples of steam-roller

  • It takes a plaguey lot to move it, and then it moves as slowly as a steam-roller.

    The Master Mummer

    E. Phillips Oppenheim

  • Billys all right: even if he did tell me this afternoon that I took-off like a steam-roller!

    Quarter-Back Bates

    Ralph Henry Barbour

  • This little girl's father was an engineer in charge of a steam-roller.

    It Never Can Happen Again

    William De Morgan

  • He might have been run over by a steam-roller for all I know!

  • All the usual derivatives appeared, to steam-roller, steam-rollered, and so on.

    The American Language

    Henry L. Mencken

British Dictionary definitions for steam-roller


steam roller

    1. a steam-powered vehicle with heavy rollers at the front and rear used for compressing road surfaces during road-making
    2. another word for roadroller
    1. an overpowering force or a person with such force that overcomes all opposition
    2. (as modifier)steamroller tactics
  1. (tr) to crush (opposition, etc) by overpowering force
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 steam-roller

also steamroller, 1866, from steam (n.) + roller. As a verb, first recorded 1912. Related: Steam-rollered.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper