Definition of plume in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /plo͞om/


1A long, soft feather or arrangement of feathers used by a bird for display or worn by a person for ornament: a hat with a jaunty ostrich plume
More example sentences
  • Ornamental bird plumes, by weight, were more valuable than gold.
  • The highly modified courtship plumes found in many species of birds of paradise are only one extreme of the diversity of courtship plumes found in birds.
  • Bird plumes, which were used to adorn women's hats and other items in the fashion industry, were worth more than gold.
feather, quill;
Ornithology  plumule, covert
1.1 Zoology A part of an animal’s body that resembles a feather: the antennae are divided into large feathery plumes
More example sentences
  • The creature had a large plume of strands on its head pointing upwards and its body appeared silvery and reflective.
1.2A long cloud of smoke or vapor resembling a feather as it spreads from its point of origin: as he spoke, the word was accompanied by a white plume of breath
More example sentences
  • She hung up, switched on the television, and saw plumes of white smoke etched against the blue Texas sky.
  • All they could see from where they were was a massive dust cloud and plumes of black smoke.
  • All the journalists in the house - three of us - ran outside to see a white plume of smoke rising close by in the north.
1.3A mass of material, typically a pollutant, spreading from a source: a radioactive plume
More example sentences
  • The plume contained toxic pollutants, possibly cyanide, from foam, oil, acrylic paints and tyres burnt in the blaze.
  • Methane gas plumes are also attributed to at least one plane disappearing, because it exploded when it entered the plume.
  • Regardless of the type of evacuation system used, the capture device should be placed as close as possible to the source of the plume.
1.4 (also mantle plume) Geology A localized column of hot magma rising by convection in the mantle, believed to cause volcanic activity in hot spots, such as the Hawaiian Islands, away from plate margins.
Example sentences
  • The wide distribution of the volcanics implies that a mantle plume was present beneath northern Australia in the past.
  • The spatial and chronological evolution of the Canary Islands' volcanism is due to eastward progression of the slow-moving African plate over a mantle plume.
  • Although it is paradoxical that Iceland's hottest region boasts its biggest ice cap, it is no coincidence: the ice sheet is huge and permanent precisely because lava flowing from the mantle plume has built the mountains so high.


1 [no object] Spread out in a shape resembling a feather: smoke plumed from the chimneys
More example sentences
  • Thick columns of boiling brown smoke are pluming from somewhere among the tower blocks in the centre.
  • Fire raged through the compound, smoke pluming up above it all.
  • He could see the smoke pluming up from the fires of the camp, but neither the fires nor tents were visible yet.
1.1 [with object] Decorate with or as if with feathers: (as adjective plumed) a plumed cap
More example sentences
  • The trappings of male finery included plumed helmets, heavy epaulettes, long swords, tassels, braid, knee-high boots, gleaming escutcheons, white gloves, white trousers.
  • Headdresses were extravagantly plumed helmets or crowns fusing baroque and classical styles.
  • It had a thin plumed mane of red and black across the top of the helmet fanning out like the feathers of a peacock.
2 (plume oneself) chiefly archaic (Of a bird) preen itself.
Example sentences
  • On alighting, which it does plumply, it immediately bends its body, turns its head to look behind it, performs a curious nod, utters its note, then shakes and plumes itself,
  • The Florida Cormorant is especially addicted to this practice, and dives and plumes itself several times in the day.
2.1Feel a great sense of self-satisfaction about something: she plumed herself on being cosmopolitan
More example sentences
  • They made endless shrill distinctions and plumed themselves on their beauty and education and sensitivity.
  • All men plume themselves on the improvement of society, and no man improves.
  • ‘I could not but highly plume myself on my masterly management in getting rid of Bartleby.’



Example sentences
  • Currently there are six noxious weeds in Nebraska, including Canada thistle, plumeless thistle, musk thistle, leafy spurge, spotted knapweed, and diffuse knapweed.


Pronunciation: /-ˌlīk/
Example sentences
  • On the image returned three hours later, these clouds had combined to form a plume-like feature similar to the one seen the previous day.
  • It has plume-like seed heads, which appear after the flowers and give a long-lasting, smoky haze to branch tips.


Pronunciation: /-mərē/
Example sentences
  • The plumery manufactures the entire range of the British Armies plumes in humanely gathered horse hair and feather.


Late Middle English: from Old French, from Latin pluma 'down'.

  • Plume and plumage come via French from Latin pluma ‘down, soft feather’. The Latin was borrowed at an early date into many Germanic languages, probably because from Roman times there was an important trade between these northern lands and the south in warm, soft goose down for stuffing pillows and duvets. From the late 16th century plume was used to describe various objects resembling a feather such as a plume of smoke.

Words that rhyme with plume

abloom, assume, backroom, bloom, Blum, boom, broom, brume, combe, consume, doom, entomb, exhume, flume, foredoom, fume, gloom, Hume, illume, inhume, Khartoum, khoum, loom, neume, perfume, presume, resume, rheum, room, spume, subsume, tomb, vroom, whom, womb, zoom

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: plume

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.