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

Etymology 1[edit]

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[edit]


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[edit]

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). Doublet of stoop.


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

  1. (transitive, middle) 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[edit]


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 (2001–2023), “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.