Intermediate+ Word of the Day: stream

stream (noun, verb) /strim/ LISTEN

A stream is a body of water that flows along a channel and, more broadly, any flow of liquid or fluid. Figuratively, a series of things can be called a stream of something. As a verb, to stream means ‘to flow in a stream,’ usually used when we are talking about a fluid, such as tears or blood, ‘to emit a fluid,’ and, when we are talking about light, ‘to extend in a beam or rays.’ It also means ‘to proceed continuously’ and also ‘to hang in a flowing manner.’

Example sentences

  • The children paddled in the stream at the bottom of the garden.
  • A stream of blood flowed from the wound.
  • The museum has had a stream of visitors this week.
  • Tears streamed down the actor's cheeks.
  • The cut on Ian's hand streamed blood.
  • I pulled back the drapes and light streamed into the room.
  • Traffic streamed past on the busy road.
  • Janice's hair streamed to her waist.

Words often used with stream

on stream: in operation. Example: “The factory will be on stream next week.”

with the stream, against the stream: either with or against the prevailing tendency. Example: “Although teenagers like to think they go against the stream, peer pressure often means they go with the stream instead.”

In pop culture

“Row, Row, Row Your Boat (Gently Down the Stream)” is a popular children’s song, which you can listen to here:

You can also see popular internet personality Prince Ea’s interpretation of this seemingly simple song:

Did you know?

A more recent meaning of stream is ‘to receive (or transmit) a continuous flow of data from the internet.’ We use it mainly to talk about watching visual content, like video clips, TV shows, or films or listening to audio content, like music, radio, or audio books. Example: “We streamed that new movie last night.”


Stream dates back to before the year 900. The Old English strēam, meaning ‘a course of water,’ can be traced back to the Proto-Germanic straumaz from the Proto-Indo-European root sreu– (to flow). It is related to the Old Saxon strom, the Old Norse straumr, the Danish strøm, the Swedish ström, the Norwegian straum, the Old Frisian stram, the Dutch stroom, the Old High German stroum and the German Strom (all meaning ‘current, river’), as well as English words like rhythm, rhyme and even Rome. It has been used to describe anything that flows continuously from a source (gases as well as liquids) since the early 12th century, and this expanded to include the figurative sense of a series of things in the 16th century. The verb, meaning ‘to flow copiously,’ comes from the noun, and dates back to the early 13th century. The sense ‘to emit a fluid’ appeared in the late 14th century.

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