verb (used with object)

to guide the course of (something in motion) by a rudder, helm, wheel, etc.: to steer a bicycle.
to follow or pursue (a particular course).
to direct the course of; guide: I can steer you to the best restaurant in town.

verb (used without object)


Informal. a suggestion about a course of action; tip: He got a good steer about finding the right job.


    steer clear of, to stay away from purposely; avoid: She steered clear of any deep emotional involvements.

Origin of steer

before 900; Middle English steren, Old English stēoran, akin to stēor steering, guidance; cognate with German steuern, Old Norse stȳra, Gothic stiurjan
Related formssteer·a·ble, adjectivesteer·a·bil·i·ty, nounun·steer·a·ble, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for steer clear of




to direct the course of (a vehicle or vessel) with a steering wheel, rudder, etc
(tr) to guide with tuitionhis teachers steered him through his exams
(tr) to direct the movements or course of (a person, conversation, etc)
to pursue (a specified course)
(intr) (of a vessel, vehicle, etc) to admit of being guided in a specified fashionthis boat does not steer properly
steer clear of to keep away from; shun


mainly US information; guidance (esp in the phrase a bum steer)
Derived Formssteerable, adjectivesteerer, noun

Word Origin for steer

Old English stieran; related to Old Frisian stiūra, Old Norse stӯra, German stevern; see starboard, stern ²




a castrated male ox or bull; bullock

Word Origin for steer

Old English stēor; related to Old Norse stjōrr, Gothic stiur, Old High German stior, Middle Dutch stēr
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 steer clear of



"guide the course of a vehicle," Old English steran (Mercian), stieran (West Saxon), from Proto-Germanic *steurijanan (cf. Old Norse styra, Old Frisian stiora, Dutch sturen, Old High German stiuren, German steuern "to steer," Gothic stiurjan "to establish, assert"), related to *steuro "a rudder, a steering" (cf. Old English steor "helm, rudder," German Steuer and first element in starboard), from PIE *steu-ro- (cf. Greek stauros "stake, pole"), from root *sta- "to stand" (see stet).

The notion is of a stiff, upright pillar or post used in steering. To steer clear of in the figurative sense of "to avoid completely" is recorded from 1723. Related: Steered; steering. Steering committee in the U.S. political sense is recorded from 1887.



"young ox," Old English steor "bullock," from Proto-Germanic *steuraz (cf. Old Saxon stior, Old Norse stjorr, Swedish tjur, Danish tyr, Middle Dutch, Dutch, German stier, Gothic stiur "bull"), perhaps from PIE *steu-ro-, a root denoting "strength, sturdiness" (see taurus).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with steer clear of

steer clear of

Stay away from, avoid, as in Dad warned us to steer clear of Dr. Smith and his poor advice. This idiom alludes to guiding a vessel away from some obstacle. Its figurative use was first recorded in 1723.


In addition to the idiom beginning with steer

  • steer clear of

also see:

  • bum steer
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.