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Two types of steamers used for food preparation (sense 1.2): a modern metal steamer (left), and a traditional bamboo steamer often used in Chinese cooking (right)
The Express II (formerly the S/S Brevik), a steamship or steamer (sense 2.2) in the Stockholms ström, Stockholm, Sweden
A man putting on a full-length wetsuit or steamer (sense 5)
A soft-shell clam or steamer (Mya arenaria; sense 6.1)
A flying steamer duck (Tachyeres patachonicus), the only species of steamer duck or steamer (sense 6.2) capable of flight

Etymology 1[edit]

From steam +‎ -er. The steamer duck or steamer (sense 6.2) is apparently named for its resemblance to a paddle steamer when swimming rapidly.


steamer (plural steamers)

  1. A device or object that works by the operation of steam.
    1. A vessel in which articles are subjected to the action of steam, as in washing and in various processes of manufacture.
    2. (cooking) A cooking appliance that cooks by steaming.
    3. (obsolete) A steam fire engine, that is, a steam boiler and engine driving a pump, which are all mounted on wheels.
  2. A mode of transportation propelled by steam.
    1. (rail transport) A steam-powered road locomotive; a traction engine.
    2. (nautical) A vessel propelled by steam; a steamboat or steamship.
      • 1859 January 6, “English and Amer[i]can navies”, in The Olney Times (reprinted from the New York Herald), volume 3, number 27 (number 130 overall), Olney, Ill.: William F. Beck, OCLC 23245310, page 1, column 6:
        Her gunboat fleet alone is composed of one hundred and sixty-one small steamers, of the efficiency of which for war purports naval critics have formed a high estimate.
  3. Clipping of steamer trunk.
  4. A babycino (frothy milk drink).
  5. A wetsuit with long sleeves and legs.
  6. The name of various animals.
    1. The soft-shell clam, sand gaper, or long-neck clam (Mya arenaria), an edible saltwater clam; specifically the clam when steamed for eating.
    2. A steamer duck: any of the four species of the duck genus Tachyeres which are all found in South America, three of which are flightless.
  7. (horse racing) A racehorse the odds of which are becoming shorter (that is, decreasing) because bettors are backing it.
  8. (Britain, slang) An act of fellatio.
  9. (Britain, crime, slang) A member of a youth gang who engages in steaming (robbing and escaping in a large group).
  10. (Britain, Scotland, slang) A drinking session.
  11. (Australia, obsolete) A dish made by cooking diced meat very slowly in a tightly sealed pot with a minimum of flavourings, allowing it to steam in its own juices; specifically such a dish made with kangaroo meat. [c. 1850 – 1900s.]
    • 1851, Henry [Saxelby] Melville, chapter XII, in The Present State of Australia, including New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and New Zealand, with Practical Hints on Emigration; to which are Added the Land Regulations, and Description of the Aborigines and Their Habits, London: G. Willis, Great Piazza, Covent Garden, OCLC 154636947, page 311:
      But of all the dishes ever brought to table, nothing equals that of the "steamer." It is made by mincing the flesh of the kangaroo, and with it some pieces of pork or bacon. The animal has not any fat, or scarcely any, in its best season; when the meat is chopped up, it is thrown into a saucepan and covered over with the lid, and left to stew or steam gently by the fire-side: it is, from this method of cooking, called "steamer." [] the flesh soon floats in its own rich gravy: it only requires pepper and salt to render it delicious. No one can tell what a steamer is, unless it has been tasted; it indeed affords an excellent repast, and it is surprising that the steamer, preserved in tins, has not yet been exported to England.
Derived terms[edit]


steamer (third-person singular simple present steamers, present participle steamering, simple past and past participle steamered)

  1. (intransitive) To travel by steamer.

Etymology 2[edit]

From steam tug, rhyming slang for mug (a gullible or easily cheated person; a stupid or contemptible person).


steamer (plural steamers)

  1. (Britain, slang) A mug.
    1. A gullible or easily cheated person.
    2. A stupid or contemptible person.
  2. (Britain, slang) A homosexual man with a preference for passive partners.
  3. (Britain, slang) A prostitute's client.
  4. (US, slang) a gambler who increases a wager after losing.


Further reading[edit]




steamer m (plural steamers)

  1. (nautical) steamer, steamboat