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  • enPR: stēp, IPA(key): /stiːp/
  • Rhymes: -iːp
  • Audio (US):(file)

Etymology 1


From Middle English steep, from Old English stēap (high), from Proto-Germanic *staupaz, from Proto-Indo-European *(s)tewb- (to push, stick).[1]

Compare Old Frisian stāp ("high, towering"; > Modern Saterland Frisian stiep (steep)), Dutch stoop (grand; proud), Middle High German stouf (towering cliff, precipice), Middle High German stief (steep)). The Proto-Indo-European root (and related) has many and varied descendants, including English stub; compare also Scots stap (to strike, to forcibly insert).

The sense of “sharp slope” is attested circa 1200; the sense “expensive” is attested US 1856.[1]



steep (comparative steeper, superlative steepest)

A car windshield like this is said to have a steep rake.
  1. Of a near-vertical gradient; of a slope, surface, curve, etc. that proceeds upward at an angle near vertical.
    a steep hill or mountain; a steep roof; a steep ascent; a steep barometric gradient
  2. (informal) expensive
    Twenty quid for a shave? That's a bit steep.
  3. (obsolete) Difficult to access; not easy reached; lofty; elevated; high.
    • 1596, George Chapman, De Guiana, carmen Epicum:
      Her ears and thoughts in steep amaze erected
  4. (of the rake of a ship's mast, or a car's windshield) resulting in a mast or windshield angle that strongly diverges from the perpendicular
    The steep rake of the windshield enhances the fast lines of the exterior.
Derived terms



steep (plural steeps)

  1. The steep side of a mountain etc.; a slope or acclivity.
    • 1833, Benjamin Disraeli, The Wondrous Tale of Alroy:
      It ended precipitously in a dark and narrow ravine, formed on the other side by an opposite mountain, the lofty steep of which was crested by a city gently rising on a gradual slope

Etymology 2


From Middle English stepen, from Old Norse steypa (to make stoop, cast down, pour out, cast (metal)),[2][3] from Proto-Germanic *staupijaną (to tumble, make tumble, plunge), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)tewb- (to push, hit). Cognate with Danish støbe (cast (metal)), Norwegian støpe, støype, Swedish stöpa (to found, cast (metal)), Old English stūpian (to stoop, bend the back, slope). Related to stoop.



steep (third-person singular simple present steeps, present participle steeping, simple past and past participle steeped)

  1. (transitive, middle voice) To soak or wet thoroughly.
    They steep skins in a tanning solution to create leather.
    The tea is steeping.
    • 1820, William Wordsworth, Composed at Cora Linn, in sight of Wallace's Tower:
      In refreshing dews to steep / The little, trembling flowers.
  2. (intransitive, figurative) To imbue with something; to be deeply immersed in.
    a town steeped in history
    • 1871, John Earle, The Philology of the English Tongue:
      The learned of the nation were steeped in Latin.
    • 1989, Black 47, Big Fellah:
      We fought against each other, two brothers steeped in blood / But I never doubted that your heart was broken in the flood / And though we had to shoot you down in golden Béal na mBláth / I always knew that Ireland lost her greatest son of all.
  3. To make tea (or other beverage) by placing leaves in hot water.
Derived terms



steep (countable and uncountable, plural steeps)

  1. A liquid used in a steeping process
    Corn steep has many industrial uses.
  2. A rennet bag.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “steep”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  2. ^ Danish cognate in ODS: eng. (muligvis fra nordisk) steep
  3. ^ steep”, in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: G. & C. Merriam, 1913, →OCLC.