Definition of step in English:

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Pronunciation: /step/


1An act or movement of putting one leg in front of the other in walking or running: Ron took a step back she turned and retraced her steps
More example sentences
  • He then proceeded taking the few steps towards the massive front doors of the palace, which slowly opened, as he got nearer.
  • May took her arm, and they began to walk with small steps towards the exit.
  • He took a slow step backward, and then fell flat onto his back.
pace, stride
footstep, footfall, tread
1.1The distance covered by a step: Richard came a couple of steps nearer
More example sentences
  • Gradually move the starting distances back a couple of steps at a time.
  • We have a man always on the scene, never, never more than a step away from instantaneously covering a story.
  • These are used to determine trip lengths in time and distance in subsequent steps.
1.2 [usually in singular] A person’s particular way of walking: she left the room with a springy step
More example sentences
  • Life had to be faced head-on and, that too with a spring in the step!
  • We set off with a springing step - me particularly - as I had left most of the contents of my small pack at the hut.
  • That is why, judging by the spring in the step of the Feel-Goods, it will take more than another quarter point rise in rates to spoil their mood.
gait, walk, tread
1.3One of the sequences of movement of the feet that make up a dance.
Example sentences
  • After that, they chose and combined the movements with modern dance steps.
  • She has even mastered some ballroom dance steps, which form part of the choreographed routines for the show.
  • While Williams made her way brilliantly through its forest of steps, the dance was more demanding than affecting.
1.4A short or easily walked distance: the market is only a short step from the end of the lake
short distance, stone's throw, spitting distance
informal 'a hop, skip, and jump'
2A flat surface, especially one in a series, on which to place one’s foot when moving from one level to another: the bottom step of the staircase a flight of marble steps
More example sentences
  • The first thing we both did when we got back was make a beeline for the staircase, each of us putting a foot on the bottom step at the same time.
  • Wendy saw Dr. Maddox out of the corner of her eye at the bottom step of a stairway leading to a second floor.
  • Cut into the granite is a steep, gradually narrowing staircase, with some steps almost one foot high.
stair, tread;
(steps) stairs, staircase, stairway
2.1A doorstep: there was a pint of milk on the step
More example sentences
  • Milk bottles were still on the step and the dogs and sheep had not been fed.
  • He turned onto his front step, then decided against it and walked along the driveway to the carport.
  • At Lowther Drive it was a similar story at 10am as front gardens were flooded and water inched towards peoples' front steps.
2.2A rung of a ladder.
Example sentences
  • She screeched as she held on to one of the steps of the steel ladder.
  • I climbed down the steps of my ladder after shoving my new diary under my mattress.
  • He jumps down, missing the last three steps of the ladder and landing right behind her.
rung, tread
2.3 (steps or a pair of steps) British A stepladder.
Example sentences
  • He raced to the home of Mrs Caulfield's sister where he also found Mr Caulfield collapsed under a pair of steps.
  • He listed a couple of folding camp chairs, a pair of steps, and a number of coats hanging up.
2.4 Climbing A foothold cut in a slope of ice.
2.5A block, typically fixed to the vessel’s keel, on which the base of a mast is seated.
Example sentences
  • The hull was modified in 1995 to include two ventilated steps, a keel pad and notched transom.
2.6 Physics An abrupt change in the value of a quantity, especially voltage.
Example sentences
  • Single channel responses to voltage steps were simulated using the Noise Simulation program.
  • At 0 mV, sparks appeared at the beginning of the voltage step with a probability of unity.
  • Excitation of a suspension of such vesicles with a flash of light generated a voltage step across the membrane.
3A measure or action, especially one of a series taken in order to deal with or achieve a particular thing: the government must take steps to discourage age discrimination a major step forward in the fight for justice
More example sentences
  • The next step is to add milk but milk is dangerous and the date stamps are often confusing.
  • My plan was moving a little quicker than anticipated so I decided to take things slow after the next step.
  • Once you have identified slow code, the next step is to address those issues.
course of action, measure, move, act, action, initiative, maneuver, operation, tactic
3.1A stage in a gradual process: sales are up, which is a step in the right direction
More example sentences
  • They want it over and done with so that they can get on with the next step of their rebuilding process.
  • Therefore, the government will proceed with the next step of the recall process.
  • It surely didn't happen overnight, and as near as I can determine, it came in several, very gradual steps.
advance, development, move, movement;
3.2A particular position or grade on an ascending or hierarchical scale: the first step on the managerial ladder
More example sentences
  • But you can't rest on your laurels - you must create your CV to get yourself on the next step of the ladder.
  • A first home is a step on the ladder, it's never the end goal or the dream home, and is rarely where you'd genuinely like it to be.
  • No-one was sponsoring me for this race and it is merely the first step on the ladder to the big one.
stage, level, grade, rank, degree;
notch, rung
4 Music , North American An interval in a scale; a tone (whole step) or semitone (half step).
Example sentences
  • This scale divides the octave into six equal steps, each a whole tone apart.
5Step aerobics: [as modifier]: a step class
More example sentences
  • Gyms schedule tai chi and yoga instruction in addition to the more traditional aerobics and step classes.
  • We have had special step classes put on so we could get the hang of it all quicker!
  • The muscular contractions it takes to smile are akin to putting your facial muscles through a 45-minute step class.

verb (steps, stepping, stepped)

1 [no object] Lift and set down one’s foot or one foot after the other in order to walk somewhere or move to a new position: Claudia tried to step back I accidentally stepped on his foot
More example sentences
  • Wendy had just lifted her foot to step over to the next joist, and the sudden noise made her startle badly.
  • I suppose everyone who worked with horses will have had their foot accidentally stepped on.
  • He set me back on my feet and I stepped aside to allow him entrance.
walk, move, tread, pace, stride
tread on, stamp on, trample (on);
squash, crush, flatten
1.1 [as imperative] Used as a polite or deferential way of asking someone to walk a short distance for a particular purpose: please step this way
More example sentences
  • Calmly but firmly insist on stepping into a private office or conference room where you will attend to his concerns.
  • Just shy of an hour after I got in, my manager came in and asked me to step into his office when I had a chance.
  • Well now that the mushy stuff is out of the way, would you mind stepping into my office?
1.2 (step it) dated Perform a dance: they stepped it down the room between the lines of dancers
More example sentences
  • Here's the girl, clueless at how to begin stepping it with the dance partner.
  • The happy couple took to the maple floor and were at peace as they stepped it out and danced to their hearts content.
  • Hearing of my trophy for ballroom dancing, the ladies present asked me to step it out with them.
1.3Take a particular course of action: young men have temporarily stepped out of the labor market
More example sentences
  • In doing so, this set of articles steps squarely into the current debate.
  • At 28 he's young enough to make some impact on the division but unless he steps outside Thailand he'll never get it done.
  • He has held pop concerts across China in the shortest period after stepping into stardom.
2 [with object] Nautical Set up (a mast) in its step.
Example sentences
  • Gotheborg will remain alongside fitting out and stepping her masts and rigging before starting sea trials in early 2004.
  • With the ship in the water, its time now to step the mast and attend to the rigging.
  • The cruiser fleet was refloated at the club slipway on Good Friday last and the masts were stepped on Saturday morning.



break step

Stop walking or marching in step with others.
Example sentences
  • Neither of them broke step as they walked with their heads up but eyes down.
  • Passers-by in this northern suburb in the foothills of Iran's Elborz Mountains are few, and most walk past without breaking step.
  • Then they break step and disperse over Southwark Bridge, chatting and slouching.

fall into step

Change the way one is walking so that one is walking in step with another person.
Example sentences
  • After school, he came up to me as I was walking home, and fell into step beside me.
  • He slowly opened his eyes as he walked forward, falling into step beside his sister.
  • Nick waited for the rest of them to walk past him and fell into step with Crystal.

in (or out of) step

Putting (or not putting) one’s feet forward alternately in the same rhythm as the people one is walking, marching, or dancing with.
Example sentences
  • At one point, young Erin hurried forward to march in step with the Captain.
  • Nowadays, players are slouching, walking out of step, and passing around water bottles.
  • Among the delegates were German veterans and blind ones from France; some of the vets, protesting the political and military madness of the First World War, refused to march in step.
3.1Conforming (or not conforming) to what others are doing or thinking: the party is clearly out of step with voters
More example sentences
  • The problem with that, of course, is that those opposition parties are out of step with 82 percent of New Zealanders.
  • The ordinary American continues to be splendidly out of step with the Chattering Classes.
  • That's where art was heading, so he was a little out of step with the intellectual movement.
in accord, in accordance, in harmony, in agreement, in tune, in line, in keeping, in conformity, compatible
at odds, at variance, in disagreement, out of tune, out of line, not in keeping, out of harmony
Physics 3.2 (Of two or more oscillations or other cyclic phenomena) having (or not having) the same frequency and always in the same phase.
Example sentences
  • If they are in step (in phase, the physicists say), then crest coincides constructively with crest, giving maximum mutual reinforcement.
  • Over time, the quantum waves that accompany the different flavors get out of step, and an electron neutrino seems to morph into a muon neutrino or a tau neutrino and back again.
  • In that case, when the length of one of the arms changes the tiniest bit, the beams will be more in step and produce some light when combined.

keep step

Remain walking, marching, or dancing in step.
Example sentences
  • I started to speed up my step as well and Ben in turn tried to keep step with me.
  • He may be tall and a little lanky and have a propensity to put his foot in it but when it comes to keeping step on a fast paced political dance floor, Bobby didn't miss a beat.
  • We have to change the interpretation of the rules to keep step with market forces.

one step ahead

Managing to avoid competition or danger from someone or something: I try to keep one step ahead of the rest of the staff
More example sentences
  • With the new press in full operation, Stewart is now turning his mind to his next investment in his bid to stay one step ahead of the competition.
  • We need to be proactive, one step ahead of the competition - an international leader.
  • At the end of the day, in our attempt to go one step ahead, we have ended up two steps behind.

step by step

So as to progress gradually and carefully from one stage to the next: I’ll explain it to you step by step [as adjective]: a step-by-step guide
More example sentences
  • She loved pranks, but they had to be carefully planned out, step by step, whereas he just did it.
  • He guides you step by step through comprehensive and easy to follow instructions.
  • Now in a step by step guide, I'll show you how I can achieve this.
one step at a time, bit by bit, gradually, in stages, by degrees, slowly, steadily

step into the breach

see breach.

step into someone's shoes

Take control of a task or job from another person.
Example sentences
  • He has already stepped into Kenyon 's shoes once before, replacing him as deputy chief executive three years ago.
  • She may be stepping into Boyle's shoes, but she won't be taking his revolutionary approach.
  • The man stepping into his shoes, however, is no shadowy unknown.

step on it (or step on the gas)

informal Go faster, typically in a motor vehicle.
Example sentences
  • The driver seemed to be really stepping on it as the bus gained speed very fast.
  • Our hero stepped on it and took us all on a high speed chase.
  • You begin at a dead stop, cop cars piled up maybe eleven inches off your rear bumper waiting patiently for you to step on it and try to make a getaway.
hurry up, get a move on, speed up, go faster, be quick
informal get cracking, get moving, step on the gas
dated make haste

step (or tread) on someone's toes

Offend someone by encroaching on their area of responsibility.
Example sentences
  • I'm getting to speak to him a bit, but I don't really want to step on his toes this week.
  • If someone accidentally steps on my toes what is the point of getting bent out of shape about it?
  • He had already filed his review, so I didn't want to step on his toes before we ran it.

step out of line

Behave inappropriately or disobediently.
Example sentences
  • We've encouraged the Environment Agency to be tight in their management of what's going on and I know they will act if the company steps out of line.
  • Now at least we will all know if she steps out of line and how to take action.
  • Stevens will now have to watch his back as hundreds of leaflets bearing his face, name and the areas he is banned from, are distributed by police so residents can report him if he steps out of line.

step up to the plate

North American Take action in response to an opportunity or crisis.
Example sentences
  • The federal authorities need to step up to the plate and face their responsibility.
  • It's everyone's responsibility to step up to the plate and strive to get what they want while giving others what they want in return.
  • However, the association also demanded that the government play a role in the consumer crisis, and openly chided it for not stepping up to the plate.

Phrasal verbs


step aside

another way of saying step down below.

step back

Mentally withdraw from a situation in order to consider it objectively.
Example sentences
  • Think about how difficult it is for some couples to step back from passion to consider contraception.
  • We are uncomfortable with slow things because we have to step back and consider them.
  • Maybe if you step back from the situation and see it from a rational point of view you might see that things are not as bad as they seem.

step down

Withdraw or resign from an important position or office: Mr. Krenz stepped down as party leader a week ago
More example sentences
  • I remember the day he told me that he was stepping down from that position.
  • He stepped down from office in May this year, ending his second spell as Tory group leader on Doncaster Council.
  • They have been sounded but refused to step down from their respective offices.
resign, quit, stand down, give up one's post/job, bow out, abdicate;
pack it in, call it quits

step something down

Decrease voltage by using a transformer.
Example sentences
  • And even if mains electricity was used, the voltage would be stepped down to battery-levels.
  • For PSD analysis, the reflector voltage was stepped down in 10 to 12 steps, starting from 30 kV, in order to collect fragment ions from the precursor down to immonium ions.
  • In this case, the supply provides 12V DC power to the case, which has a small internal regulator to step the voltage down to 3.3V and 5V as needed.

step forward

Offer one’s help or services: a company has stepped forward to sponsor the team
More example sentences
  • It was at this point the man - who had been seated near to the pair on the train - stepped forward to offer his help.
  • At press time no student had stepped forward offering to cover the substantial deficit.
  • Meanwhile, Government sanction has enabled the East Midlands Development Agency to offer allowances for parties stepping forward to help fund the race.

step in

Become involved in a difficult or problematic situation, especially in order to help or prevent something from happening.
Example sentences
  • It really is time that city hall stepped in to try and salvage the situation!
  • By Saturday of last week local African Caribbean churches had stepped in to try to calm the situation down.
  • A while ago I was involved in an incident where I stepped in to help someone who was being spat at by a racist.
intervene, intercede, involve oneself, become/get involved, take a hand
6.1Act as a substitute for someone: Lucy stepped in at very short notice to take Joan’s place
More example sentences
  • Neither bothered to turn up and the business editor stepped in to do an admirable job as a late substitute.
  • Blindside flanker Jim Nicholson is out through injury, so natural replacement Duncan Phillips steps in.
stand in, sit in, fill in, cover, substitute, take over;
replace, take someone's place
informal sub

step out

1Leave a room or building, typically for a short time.
Example sentences
  • So, she hands me a fly-swatter, steps out of the room and goes to phone my step-dad to find out where they keep the bug spray.
  • He steps out of the room and returns a few minutes later after consulting his manager.
  • I stepped out of the room to grab a couple of beers from the kitchen.
2North American informal Go out to have a good time: he was stepping out with a redheaded waitress
More example sentences
  • It seems Rupert's been stepping out with some rich vixen.
  • She's now stepping out with a gentleman.
  • He was a member of a failed boyband and has been stepping out with young Samantha for three years now.
3Walk with long or vigorous steps: she enjoyed the outing, stepping out manfully
More example sentences
  • Weak, disused musculature means I have to saunter and stroll rather than step out briskly.
  • I nudged Glory into a trot and he eagerly stepped out, his long strides eating up the ground.

step something up

Increase the amount, speed, or intensity of something: police decided to step up security plans for the game
More example sentences
  • From there he drove to his home in Glasgow's west end where his security will be stepped up.
  • Security patrols have been stepped up in the border area.
  • And as the government steps up its efforts to join the euro we can expect more traders sell sterling in anticipation.
increase, intensify, strengthen, augment, escalate
informal up, crank up
speed up, increase, accelerate, quicken, hasten
8.1Increase voltage using a transformer.
Example sentences
  • European machines, which operate on electrical standards different from those of U.S. machines, require transformers to step voltages up or down.
  • In the pictures you see, it's taking power from an external power supply, stepping it up in voltage, and driving a fluorescent lamp - all at an efficiency of less than 100%.



Pronunciation: /-ˌlīk/
Example sentences
  • MID is described as having a step-like progress instead of inflicting a continuous decline as in Alzheimer's disease.
  • Three beautiful specimens are assigned to this new species, which is characterized by step-like whorls, coarse and prominent collabral costae and spiral caring on the ramp, and a columellar lip with two folds.
  • The dark-adapted S. coeruleus cell, when subjected to a step-like increase in light intensity, responds with a depolarizing receptor potential.


Old English stæpe, stepe (noun), stæppan, steppan (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch steppen and German stapfen.

Words that rhyme with step

cep, Dieppe, hep, misstep, outstep, pep, prep, rep, schlepp, skep, steppe, strep

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: step

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