Nearby words

  1. stent,
  2. stentor,
  3. stentorian,
  4. stentorious,
  5. stentoriously,
  6. step aerobics,
  7. step aside,
  8. step by step,
  9. step change,
  10. step cut


Origin of step

before 900; (v.) Middle English steppen, Old English steppan; cognate with Old High German stepfen; akin to stamp; (noun) Middle English; Old English stepe

Related forms
Can be confusedstep steppe Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for watch one's step



the act of motion brought about by raising the foot and setting it down again in coordination with the transference of the weight of the body
the distance or space covered by such a motion
the sound made by such a movement
the impression made by such movement of the foot; footprint
the manner of walking or moving the feet; gaithe received his prize with a proud step
a sequence of foot movements that make up a particular dance or part of a danceI have mastered the steps of the waltz
any of several paces or rhythmic movements in marching, dancing, etcthe goose step
(plural) a course followed by a person in walking or as walkingthey followed in their leader's steps
one of a sequence of separate consecutive stages in the progression towards some goalanother step towards socialism
a rank or grade in a series or scalehe was always a step behind
an object or device that offers support for the foot when ascending or descending
(plural) a flight of stairs, esp out of doors
(plural) another name for stepladder
a very short easily walked distanceit is only a step to my place
music a melodic interval of a secondSee whole tone, half-step
an offset or change in the level of a surface similar to the step of a stair
a strong block or frame bolted onto the keel of a vessel and fitted to receive the base of a mast
a ledge cut in mining or quarrying excavations
break step to cease to march in step
in step
  1. marching, dancing, etc, in conformity with a specified pace or moving in unison with others
  2. informalin agreement or harmony
keep step to remain walking, marching, dancing, etc, in unison or in a specified rhythm
out of step
  1. not moving in conformity with a specified pace or in accordance with others
  2. informalnot in agreement; out of harmony
step by step with care and deliberation; gradually
take steps to undertake measures (to do something) with a view to the attainment of some end
watch one's step
  1. informalto conduct oneself with caution and good behaviour
  2. to walk or move carefully

verb steps, stepping or stepped

(intr) to move by raising the foot and then setting it down in a different position, transferring the weight of the body to this foot and repeating the process with the other foot
(intr; often foll by in, out, etc) to move or go on foot, esp for a short distancestep this way, ladies
(intr) informal, mainly US to move, often in an attractive graceful manner, as in dancinghe can really step around
(intr; usually foll by on or upon) to place or press the foot; treadto step on the accelerator
(intr usually foll by into) to enter (into a situation) apparently with easeshe stepped into a life of luxury
(tr) to walk or take (a number of paces, etc)to step ten paces
(tr) to perform the steps ofthey step the tango well
(tr) to set or place (the foot)
(tr; usually foll by off or out) to measure (some distance of ground) by stepping
(tr) to arrange in or supply with a series of steps so as to avoid coincidence or symmetry
(tr) to raise (a mast) and fit it into its step

Derived Formssteplike, adjective

Word Origin for step

Old English stepe, stæpe; related to Old Frisian stap, stepe, Old High German stapfo (German Stapfe footprint), Old Norse stapi high rock



  1. a set of aerobic exercises designed to improve the cardiovascular system, which consists of stepping on and off a special box of adjustable height
  2. (as modifier)Step aerobics


n acronym for

Special Temporary Employment Programme
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 watch one's step
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with watch one's step

watch one's step

Exercise caution, as in You'd better watch your step talking to them about a merger. Often put as an admonition, this phrase transfers taking care in walking to other kinds of caution. [First half of 1900s]


In addition to the idioms beginning with step

  • step aside
  • step by step
  • step down
  • step in
  • step in the right direction, a
  • step into
  • step into someone's shoes
  • step on it
  • step on someone's toes
  • step out
  • step out of line
  • step up

also see:

  • false step
  • in step
  • (step) out of line
  • take steps
  • watch one's step
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.