beam /biːm/

b

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.
4.
[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.
6.
‹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.
11.
‹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.

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