There are 3 main definitions of stem in English:

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stem 1

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1The main body or stalk of a plant or shrub, typically rising above ground but occasionally subterranean.
Example sentences
  • Both the blue and the yellow have the classic, satiny translucent petals of the poppy tribe, both, characteristically, are held on wiry stems above the parent plant.
  • Cut back around a third of the oldest stems to just above ground level to encourage the production of new growth from the base of the plant.
  • What really hurts is if they lay eggs on the ground under the plant or on the stem at ground level.
trunk, stalk, stock, cane
technical peduncle
1.1The stalk supporting a fruit, flower, or leaf, and attaching it to a larger branch, twig, or stalk.
Example sentences
  • Erythronium dens-canis is the true dog's tooth violet, the name comes from the shape of the corm, and has rose coloured flowers on 10 cm stems and purple marked leaves.
  • Vine with heart-shaped leaves attaches itself to a support by clasping leaf stems.
  • The stems had one leaf at each node and apart from the flower branches the stems had no side shoots.
stalk, shoot, twig
technical bine, pedicel, petiole, peduncle, axis
2A long, thin supportive or main section of something: the main stem of the wing feathers
More example sentences
  • The radiation of birds from the theropod stem may be an example of this sort of thing.
  • Basically, it is mainly pace and turbulence that determines whether a traditional stick or a wire stem is used.
  • Hold the bar with your other hand near the stem to limit swerving as you reach down.
2.1The slender part of a wine glass between the base and the bowl: her fingers tightened on the stem of her glass
More example sentences
  • These little charms, when hung around the stem of a wine glass, personalize the drink and make it easy to decipher which wine glass is yours on a crowded cluttered party table.
  • The oldest surviving wine glass with a stem and foot are 15th century enameled goblets that holds more than four ounces of liquid.
  • Dani's fingers tighten around the stem of the wineglass she's holding.
2.2The tube of a tobacco pipe: Stanley eyed his father over the stem of his pipe
More example sentences
  • It originally hails from America where Native Americans used its hollowed-out stems as tobacco pipes and tubes.
2.3A rod or cylinder in a mechanism, for example the sliding shaft of a bolt or the winding pin of a watch: the stem of the bolt edged clear
More example sentences
  • It uses a by-now obligatory two-bolt detachable faceplate for easy bar swapping, and a unique opposing bolt clamp on the stem.
  • The change stems in part from mechanical adjustments.
  • It does not improve the mechanical characteristics of the stem, but does improve shock damping.
2.4A vertical stroke in a letter or musical note.
Example sentences
  • The writing is never less than neat, but sometimes the vertical strokes - stems and long rests - waver as if written by a shaking hand.
  • For example, the addition of a stem carries no essential meaning that requires a minim to last half as long as a semibreve, but convention dictates it.
  • LiquidTrax provides music editors with the ability to mix their own custom score using four stems from a stock piece of music.
3 Grammar The root or main part of a word, to which inflections or formative elements are added.
Example sentences
  • This is a scientific term derived by making an English plural from octopod, which is the bare stem of the Greek word, not its singular.
  • Vary site descriptions by using word stems and related keywords.
  • A typical Ojibwa sentence contains a multipart verb, the core meaning of which is carried by a verb stem, itself composed of meaningful elements.
3.1 archaic or , literary The main line of descent of a family or nation: the Hellenic tribes were derived from the Aryan stem
4The main upright timber or metal piece at the bow of a ship, to which the ship’s sides are joined at the front end: the spines and bow stems of abandoned hulks
More example sentences
  • Experts who have been diving to the wreck off Portsmouth for the last month have excavated a five-metre-long piece of wood which they believe is the front stem of the ship's keel.
  • We would then come up the stem of the ship for a landing.
  • So a team from the dock came on-board and inspected the ship, stem to stern.
5US informal A pipe used for smoking crack or opium.

verb (stems, stemming, stemmed)

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1 [no object] (stem from) Originate in or be caused by: many of the universities' problems stem from rapid expansion
More example sentences
  • The band's origins stem from Edwards wanting to create a big band to perform improvised or free music, which is still anchored in some way, by a structure.
  • Its origins stem from 1898, when a Maj Davidson of the US army bolted a machine gun to a 3-cylinder car.
  • Val Pellice produces a speciality cheese, the origins of which stem from the early Middle Ages when occasional Saracenic groups ventured into the Alps.
have its origins in, arise from, originate from, spring from, derive from, come from, be rooted in, emanate from, issue from, flow from, proceed from, result from, be consequent on;
be caused by, be brought on/about by, be produced by
2 [with object] Remove the stems from (fruit or tobacco leaves): her aunt and her mother were stemming currants on the side porch
More example sentences
  • They will love making thumbprints in the cookies but might have trouble sitting still for less glamorous tasks like stemming cherry tomatoes.
  • The perfect knife for hunting is different than the one used for stemming strawberries.
  • Mint is not to be stemmed to keep the leaves from clogging the teapot spout.
3 [with object] (Of a boat) make headway against (the tide or current): if the wind will only freshen a little, we shall be able to stem the first of the flood
More example sentences
  • But he, like Canute, will not stem the spring tide
  • To stem the tide, so to speak, the Pebble Beach Company has undertaken major projects at major expense.


from stem to stern
From the front to the back, especially of a ship: surges of water rocked their boats from stem to stern
More example sentences
  • Then a massive explosion rips through the shuttle bay, rocking the ship from stem to stern.
  • Both handmaids bounced about the ship from stem to stern and port to starboard, finding myriad wonders in the azure blue sea: porpoises, jellyfish, the wave of the sea cut by the prow or the foam of the ship's wake.
  • At that moment a heavy wave struck the ship, smashing plates in the mess and shaking the ship from stem to stern, causing much hilarity in the mess; but up on deck poor Winton had vanished.


[in combination]: red-stemmed alder bushes
Example sentences
  • The popular vigorous variety ‘Superba’ can be invasive with large, rich violet flowers on stems up to 80 cm high, while C.glomerata acaulis is virtually stemless, growing to only 15 cm.
  • The Haworthia attenuata has a stemless rosette of really tough dark green leaves that have bands of glistening white tubercles.
  • The invertebrate fauna includes many planktonic forms, particularly jellyfish and the stemless crinoid Saccoma, and also nektonic organisms such as cephalopods.
Example sentences
  • In terms of tumors, it's known that stem-like cells have characteristics much like cancer cells.
  • As the ovary transformed into a fruit, the activity of the vascular cambium resulted in the formation of a stem-like structure with a woody central cylinder surrounded by secondary phloem.
  • One hand was outstretched to support the instrument by the stem-like projection, the body half tucked under his arm while his fingers danced swiftly over the taut strings.


Old English stemn, stefn, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch stam and German Stamm. sense 4 of the noun is related to Dutch steven, German Steven.

Words that rhyme with stem

ahem, Belém, Clem, condemn, contemn, crème de la crème, em, gem, hem, Jem, LibDem, phlegm, pro tem, rem, Shem, them
Definition of stem in:
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There are 3 main definitions of stem in English:

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stem 2 Line breaks: stem

verb (stems, stemming, stemmed)

1 [with object] Stop or restrict (the flow of something): a nurse did her best to stem the bleeding
More example sentences
  • We created an outside stop tap to stem the flow and then covered the hole over with boarding as a temporary measure.
  • The French embassy said it was unbiased guidance for French companies who were thinking of moving; others, like Cadic, saw it as a thinly veiled attempt to stem the flow.
  • The Royal Navy will attempt to stem the flow of oil from the sunken Royal Oak battleship by carrying out tests on a replica of the vessel.
staunch, stop, halt, check, hold back, restrain, restrict, control, contain, curb;
block, dam;
slow, lessen, reduce, diminish, retard;
North American  stanch
archaic stay
1.1Stop the spread or development of (something undesirable): an attempt to stem the rising tide of unemployment
More example sentences
  • The budget was therefore crucial to the ruling coalition, particularly the JVP, to stem a collapse of popular support.
  • Even "Trojan" buses packed with police failed to stem the problem.
  • Yet there appears to be no effective means to stem its activities.
2 [no object] Skiing Slide the tail of one ski or both skis outwards in order to turn or slow down: I side-slipped at first, grew tired of it, and stemmed for a while


Middle English (in the sense 'to stop, delay'): from Old Norse stemma, of Germanic origin. The skiing term (early 20th century) is from the German verb stemmen.

Definition of stem in:
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There are 3 main definitions of stem in English:

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STEM 3 Line breaks: STEM


Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (as an educational category): the academy is seeking to appoint a Teaching and Learning Coordinator for STEM subjects
More example sentences
  • Specifically, we concentrate on K-12 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning experiences for students and teachers.
  • Young people need to have clear awareness of the wide range of worthwhile and remunerative careers to which STEM subjects can lead.
  • The under-representation of girls in physics post-16 is a serious issue for the UK and in particular for the STEM community.
Definition of stem in:
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