AskDefine | Define steam

Dictionary Definition

steam n : water at boiling temperature diffused in the atmosphere


1 travel by means of steam power; "The ship steamed off into the Pacific"
2 emit steam; "The rain forest was literally steaming"
3 rise as vapor
4 get very angry; "her indifference to his amorous advances really steamed the young man"
5 clean by means of steaming; "steam-clean the upholstered sofa" [syn: steam clean]
6 cook something by letting steam pass over it; "just steam the vegetables"

User Contributed Dictionary



From stēam



  1. the vapor formed when water changes from liquid phase to gas phase
  2. pressurized water vapour used for heating, cooking, or to provide mechanical energy
  3. In the context of "by extension": energy; power
    After three weeks in bed he was finally able to sit up under his own steam.
water vapor
  • Finnish: vesihöyry
  • German: Dampf
  • Hungarian: pára
  • Japanese: 湯気, 蒸気; 水蒸気
  • Latvian: tvaiks
  • Russian: пар (par)
  • Spanish: vapor
  • Swedish: ånga
water vapor used for heating or as source of kinetic energy
  • Finnish: höyry
  • German: Dampf
  • Hungarian: gőz
  • Japanese: 蒸気
  • Latvian: tvaiks
  • Russian: пар (par)
  • Swedish: ånga
  • Finnish: voima, energia
  • German: Kraft, Energie
  • Hungarian: erő, energia
  • Swedish: ånga


  1. In the context of "cooking|transitive}} to cook with steam

Extensive Definition

In physical chemistry, and in engineering, steam refers to vaporized water. It is a pure, completely invisible gas (for mist see below). At standard temperature and pressure, pure steam (unmixed with air, but in equilibrium with liquid water) occupies about 1,600 times the volume of liquid water. In the atmosphere, the partial pressure of water is much lower than 1 atm, therefore gaseous water can exist at temperatures much lower than 100 C (see water vapor and humidity).
In common speech, steam most often refers to the white mist that condenses above boiling water as the hot vapor ("steam" in the first sense) mixes with the cooler air. This mist is made of tiny droplets of liquid water, not gaseous water, so it is no longer technically steam. In the spout of a steaming kettle, the spot where there is no condensed water vapor, where there appears to be nothing there, is steam.


A steam engine uses the expansion of steam in order to drive a piston or turbine to perform mechanical work. In other industrial applications steam is used for energy storage, which is introduced and extracted by heat transfer, usually through pipes. Steam is a capacious reservoir for energy because of water's high heat of vaporization. The ability to return condensed steam as water-liquid to the boiler at high pressure with relatively little expenditure of pumping power is also important. Engineers use an idealised thermodynamic cycle, the Rankine cycle, to model the behaviour of steam engines.
In the U.S., more than 86% of electric power is produced using steam as the working fluid, nearly all by steam turbines. Condensation of steam to water often occurs at the low-pressure end of a steam turbine, since this maximises the energy efficiency, but such wet-steam conditions have to be limited to avoid excessive turbine blade erosion.
When liquid water comes in contact with a very hot substance (such as lava, or molten metal) it can flash into steam very quickly; this is called a steam explosion. Such an explosion was probably responsible for much of the damage in the Chernobyl accident and for many so-called 'foundry accidents'.
Steam's capacity to transfer heat is also used in the home: for cooking vegetables, steam cleaning of fabric and carpets, and heating buildings. In each case, water is heated in a boiler, and the steam carries the energy to a target object. "Steam showers" are actually low-temperature mist-generators, and do not actually use steam.
In electric generation, steam is typically condensed at the end of its expansion cycle, and returned to the boiler for re-use. However in cogeneration, steam is piped into buildings to provide heat energy after its use in the electric generation cycle. The world's biggest steam generation system is Con Edison in New York City which pumps steam into 100,000 buildings in Manhattan from seven cogeneration plants.

See also


External links

steam in Arabic: بخار
steam in Bulgarian: Пара
steam in Catalan: Vapor
steam in Czech: Pára
steam in German: Dampf
steam in Modern Greek (1453-): Ατμός
steam in Spanish: Vapor
steam in Basque: Lurrun
steam in Galician: Vapor
steam in Hebrew: אד
steam in Croatian: Para
steam in Indonesian: Uap
steam in Italian: Vapore
steam in Korean: 수증기
steam in Marathi: बाष्प
steam in Dutch: Stoom
steam in Norwegian Nynorsk: Damp
steam in Occitan (post 1500): Vapor
steam in Portuguese: Vapor
steam in Romanian: Abur
steam in Russian: Пар
steam in Albanian: Avulli
steam in Simple English: Vapor
steam in Sundanese: Uap
steam in Swedish: Ånga
steam in Tamil: நீராவி
steam in Thai: ไอน้ำ
steam in Ukrainian: Пара
steam in Yiddish: פארע

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Old Faithful, aerate, aerify, afterdamp, agua, amperage, aqua, armipotence, atomize, authority, bake, barbecue, baste, be in heat, beef, black power, blackdamp, blanch, blaze, bloom, blow, boat, boil, boiling water, braise, breath, breathe out, brew, broil, brown, brute force, burn, canoe, carbonate, carry sail, chafe, charge, charisma, chlorinate, choke, chokedamp, circumnavigate, cloud, clout, coast, coddle, cogence, cogency, combust, compulsion, cook, cross, cruise, curry, damp, devil, dint, distill, do, do to perfection, drinking water, drive, duress, eau, effect, effectiveness, effectuality, effluvium, electric-heat, emit, energy, etherify, etherize, evacuate, evaporate, exhalation, exhale, exhaust, expire, fetid air, fire, fire up, firedamp, flame, flame up, flare, flare up, flatus, flicker, flower power, fluid, fluidize, flush, foment, force, force majeure, forcefulness, fractionate, fricassee, frizz, frizzle, fry, full blast, full force, fume, fumigate, gas-heat, gasify, gasp, geyser, give off, give out, give vent to, glow, go by ship, go on shipboard, go to sea, griddle, grill, ground water, hard water, head, heat, heavy water, hot, hot spring, hot up, hot water, hot-air-heat, hot-water-heat, hydrogenate, hydrol, hydrometeor, hydrosphere, incandesce, influence, let out, limewater, main force, main strength, make a passage, malaria, mana, mephitis, miasma, might, might and main, mightiness, mineral water, motorboat, moxie, mull, muscle, muscle power, navigate, open the floodgates, open the sluices, oven-bake, overheat, oxygenate, pan, pan-broil, pant, parboil, parch, perfume, pizzazz, ply, poach, poop, potence, potency, potentiality, power, power pack, power structure, power struggle, powerfulness, preheat, prepare, prepare food, prepotency, productiveness, productivity, puff, puff of smoke, puissance, pull, punch, push, radiate heat, rain, rainwater, recook, reek, reheat, roast, row, run, sail, sail round, sail the sea, salt water, saute, scald, scallop, scorch, scull, sea water, seafare, sear, seethe, send out, shimmer with heat, shirr, simmer, sinew, smoke, smolder, smother, smudge, soft water, spark, spray, spring water, steamboat, stew, stifle, stir-fry, stoke up, strength, strong arm, sublimate, sublime, suffocate, superheat, superiority, superpower, sweat, swelter, take a voyage, tepefy, thermae, throw off, toast, traverse, validity, vapor, vaporize, vehemence, vigor, vim, virility, virtue, virulence, vitality, volatile, volatilize, voyage, warm, warm over, warm up, water, water vapor, wattage, weight, well water, wetting agent, wetting-out agent, yacht
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