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  1. a part or division of a ship, formerly the part containing the steering apparatus.
  2. (in a passenger ship) the part or accommodations allotted to the passengers who travel at the cheapest rate.
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Origin of steerage

First recorded in 1400–50, steerage is from the late Middle English word sterage. See steer1, -age
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for steerage


  1. the cheapest accommodation on a passenger ship, originally the compartments containing the steering apparatus
  2. an instance or the practice of steering and the effect of this on a vessel or vehicle
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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 steerage


mid-15c., "action of steering," from steer (v.) + -age. Meaning "part of a ship in front of the chief cabin" is from 1610s; originally where the steering apparatus of the ship was, it retained the name after the introduction of the deck wheel in early 18c.; hence meaning "section of a ship with the cheapest accommodations," first recorded 1804.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper