beam /biːm/


I. noun

1. a long, sturdy piece of squared timber or metal used to support the roof or floor of a building.

there are very fine oak beams in the oldest part of the house.
the cottage boasts a wealth of exposed beams.
2. a narrow, raised horizontal piece of squared timber on which a gymnast balances while performing exercises.

a compulsory set of exercises on floor, vault, bars, and beam.
3. a horizontal piece of squared timber or metal supporting the deck and joining the sides of a ship.

the watertight skin and deck were put on over this framework of ribs and beams.
[Nautical] the direction of an object visible from the port or starboard side of a ship when it is perpendicular to the centre line of the vessel

there was land in sight on the port beam.
5. a ship’s breadth at its widest point

a cutter with a beam of 16 feet.
‹informal› the width of a person’s hips

notice how broad in the beam she’s getting?
7. the main stem of a stag’s antler.

the wide beams sprouted ten main tines.
8. the crossbar of a balance.
9. an oscillating shaft which transmits the vertical piston movement of a beam engine to the crank or pump.
10. the shank of an anchor.
‹historical› the main timber of a horse-drawn plough.
12. a ray or shaft of light

a beam of light flashed in front of her
the torch beam dimmed perceptibly.
13. a directional flow of particles or radiation

beams of electrons.
14. a series of radio or radar signals emitted as a navigational guide for ships or aircraft.

the detector simply pinpoints the radar beams that other ships transmit.
15. a radiant or good-natured look or smile

a beam of satisfaction.
II. verb

1. [with obj. and adverbial of direction] transmit (a radio signal or broadcast) in a specified direction

the satellite beamed back radio signals to scientists on Earth.
2. [with obj.] ( beam someone up/down) (in science fiction) transport someone instantaneously to or from a spaceship.

mission controller, beam me up!
[phrase from the American television series Star Trek.]
3. [no obj., with adverbial of direction] (of a light or light source) shine brightly

the sun’s rays beamed down.
4. [no obj.] smile radiantly

she beamed with pleasure.
5. [with obj.] express (an emotion) with a radiant smile

the instructress beamed her approval.
III. phrases

1. a beam in one’s eye
a fault that is greater in oneself than in the person one is finding fault with.

economic forecasters should consider the beam in their own eye before criticizing the government’s figures.
[with biblical allusion to Matt. 7:3.]
2. off (or way off) beam

‹informal› on the wrong track; mistaken.

you’re way off beam on this one.
3. on the beam

‹informal› on the right track.

I’ve had a couple of stormy sessions with the old rascal trying to keep him on the beam.
4. on her (or its) beam ends
(of a ship) heeled over on its side; almost capsized.
5. on one’s beam ends
near the end of one’s resources; desperate.

if they were on their beam ends they might brave an audience with Fisher.
– origin Old English bēam ‘tree, beam’, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch boom and German Baum.

Add Comment

By Oxford


Get in touch

Quickly communicate covalent niche markets for maintainable sources. Collaboratively harness resource sucking experiences whereas cost effective meta-services.