1. A squared-off log or a large, oblong piece of timber, metal, or stone used especially as a horizontal support in construction.
a. A transverse structural member of a ship's frame, used to support a deck and to brace the sides against stress.
b. The breadth of a ship at the widest point.
c. The side of a ship: sighted land off the starboard beam.
3. Informal The widest part of a person's hips: broad in the beam.
4. A steel tube or wooden roller on which the warp is wound in a loom.
5. An oscillating lever connected to an engine piston rod and used to transmit power to the crankshaft.
a. The bar of a balance from which weighing pans are suspended.
b. Sports A balance beam.
7. The main horizontal bar on a plow to which the share, coulter, and handles are attached.
8. One of the main stems of a deer's antlers.
a. A ray or shaft of light.
b. A concentrated stream of particles or a similar propagation of waves: a beam of protons; a beam of light.
10. A radio beam.
v. beamed, beam·ing, beams
1. To radiate light; shine.
2. To smile expansively.
1. To emit or transmit: beam a message via satellite.
2. To express by means of a radiant smile: He beamed his approval of the new idea.
on the beam
1. Following a radio beam. Used of aircraft.
2. On the right track; operating correctly.
[Middle English bem, from Old English bēam; see bheuə- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.