from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The main ascending axis of a plant; a stalk or trunk.
  • n. A slender stalk supporting or connecting another plant part, such as a leaf or flower.
  • n. A banana stalk bearing several bunches of bananas.
  • n. A connecting or supporting part, especially:
  • n. The tube of a tobacco pipe.
  • n. The slender upright support of a wineglass or goblet.
  • n. The small projecting shaft with an expanded crown by which a watch is wound.
  • n. The rounded rod in the center of certain locks about which the key fits and is turned.
  • n. The shaft of a feather or hair.
  • n. The upright stroke of a typeface or letter.
  • n. Music The vertical line extending from the head of a note.
  • n. The main line of descent of a family.
  • n. Linguistics The main part of a word to which affixes are added.
  • n. Nautical The curved upright beam at the fore of a vessel into which the hull timbers are scarfed to form the prow.
  • n. The tubular glass structure mounting the filament or electrodes in an incandescent bulb or vacuum tube.
  • intransitive v. To have or take origin or descent.
  • transitive v. To remove the stem of.
  • transitive v. To provide with a stem.
  • transitive v. To make headway against: managed to stem the rebellion.
  • idiom from stem to stern From one end to another.
  • transitive v. To stop or hold back by or as if by damming; stanch.
  • transitive v. To plug or tamp (a blast hole, for example).
  • transitive v. Sports To point (skis) inward.
  • intransitive v. Sports To point skis inward in order to slow down or turn.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The above-ground stalk (technically axis) of a vascular plant, and certain anatomically similar, below-ground organs such as rhizomes, bulbs, tubers, and corms.
  • n. A slender supporting member of an individual part of a plant such as a flower or a leaf; also, by analogue the shaft of a feather.
  • n. A narrow part on certain man-made objects, such as a wine glass, a tobacco pipe, a spoon.
  • n. The main part of an uninflected word to which affixes may be added to form inflections of the word. A stem often has a more fundamental root. Systematic conjugations and declensions derive from their stems.
  • n. A vertical stroke of a letter.
  • n. A vertical stroke of a symbol representing a note in written music.
  • n. The vertical or nearly vertical forward extension of the keel, to which the forward ends of the planks or strakes are attached.
  • v. To take out the stem from.
  • v. To be caused or derived; to originate.
  • v. To descend in a family line.
  • v. To direct the stem (of a ship) against; to make headway against.
  • v. To hit with the stem of a ship; to ram.
  • v. To stop, hinder (for instance, a river or blood).
  • v. To move the feet apart and point the tips of the skis inward in order to slow down the speed or to facilitate a turn.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A gleam of light; flame.
  • n. The principal body of a tree, shrub, or plant, of any kind; the main stock; the part which supports the branches or the head or top.
  • n. A little branch which connects a fruit, flower, or leaf with a main branch; a peduncle, pedicel, or petiole.
  • n. The stock of a family; a race or generation of progenitors.
  • n. A branch of a family.
  • n. A curved piece of timber to which the two sides of a ship are united at the fore end. The lower end of it is scarfed to the keel, and the bowsprit rests upon its upper end. Hence, the forward part of a vessel; the bow.
  • n. Fig.: An advanced or leading position; the lookout.
  • n. Anything resembling a stem or stalk
  • n. That part of a plant which bears leaves, or rudiments of leaves, whether rising above ground or wholly subterranean.
  • n.
  • n. The entire central axis of a feather.
  • n. The basal portion of the body of one of the Pennatulacea, or of a gorgonian.
  • n. The short perpendicular line added to the body of a note; the tail of a crotchet, quaver, semiquaver, etc.
  • n. The part of an inflected word which remains unchanged (except by euphonic variations) throughout a given inflection; theme; base.
  • intransitive v. To gleam.
  • intransitive v. To move forward against an obstacle, as a vessel against a current.
  • transitive v. To remove the stem or stems from; ; to remove the stem and its appendages (ribs and veins) from.
  • transitive v. To ram, as clay, into a blasting hole.
  • transitive v. To oppose or cut with, or as with, the stem of a vessel; to resist, or make progress against; to stop or check the flow of, as a current.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To remove the stem of; separate from the stem: as, to stem tobacco.
  • To dash against with the stem (of a vessel).
  • To keep (a vessel) on its course; steer.
  • To make headway against by sailing or swimming, as a tide or current; hence, in general, to make headway against (opposition of any kind).
  • To make headway (as a ship); especially, to make progress in opposition to some obstruction, as a current of water or the wind.
  • To head; advance head on.
  • To stop; check; dam up, as a stream.
  • To tamp; make tight, as a joint, with a lute or cement.
  • An old spelling of steam.
  • n. The body of a tree, shrub, or plant; the firm part which supports the branches; the stock; the stalk; technically, the ascending axis, which ordinarily grows in an opposite direction to the root or descending axis.
  • n. The stalk which supports the flower or the fruit of a plant; the peduncle of the fructification, or the pedicel of a flower; the petiole or leaf-stem. See cuts under pedicel, peduncle, and petiole.
  • n. The stock of a family; a race; ancestry.
  • n. A branch of a family; an offshoot.
  • n. Anything resembling the stem of a plant.
  • n. In type-founding, the thick stroke or body-mark of a roman or italic letter. See cut under type.
  • n. In a vehicle, a bar to which the bow of a falling hood is hinged.
  • n. The projecting rod of a reciprocating valve, serving to guide it in its action. See cut under slide-valve.
  • n. In zoology and anatomy, any slender, especially axial, part like the stem of a plant; a stalk, stipe, rachis, footstalk, etc.
  • n. In ornithology, the whole shaft of a feather.
  • n. In entomology, the base of a clavate antenna, including all the joints except the enlarged outer ones: used especially in descriptions of the Lepidoptera.
  • n. In musical notation, a vertical line added to the head of certain kinds of notes.
  • n. In philology, a derivative from a root, having itself inflected forms, whether of declension or of conjugation, made from it; the unchanged part in a series of inflectional forms, from which the forms are viewed as made by additions; base; crude form.
  • n. See the adjectives.
  • n. A curved piece of timber or metal to which the two sides of a ship are united at the foremost end.
  • n. The forward part of a vessel; the bow.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the tube of a tobacco pipe
  • n. front part of a vessel or aircraft
  • n. a slender or elongated structure that supports a plant or fungus or a plant part or plant organ
  • n. (linguistics) the form of a word after all affixes are removed
  • n. cylinder forming a long narrow part of something
  • v. remove the stem from
  • v. stop the flow of a liquid
  • v. cause to point inward
  • n. a turn made in skiing; the back of one ski is forced outward and the other ski is brought parallel to it
  • v. grow out of, have roots in, originate in


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English, from Old English stefn, stemn; see stā- in Indo-European roots.
Middle English stemmen, from Old Norse stemma.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old English stemn, stefn ("stem, trunk (of a tree)"), from Proto-Germanic *stamniz.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old Norse stemma ("to stop, stem, dam") ( > Danish stemme/stæmme ("to stem, dam up")), from Proto-Germanic *stamjan. Cognate with German stemmen; compare stammer.



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  • in cycling, a stem is the part that the handlebars are bolted onto.

    January 12, 2013

  • Contronymic in the sense: issue forth from vs. contain.

    January 27, 2007