see also: Steel
  • enPR: stēl, IPA: /stiːl/, [stiːɫ]


  1. An artificial metal produced from iron, harder and more elastic than elemental iron; used figuratively as a symbol of hardness.
    • circa 725 Corpus Gloss., 1431:
      Ocearium stæli.
    • circa 825 Epinal Gloss., 49:
      Accearium steeli.
    • circa 1275 Laȝamon, Brut, 12916:
      Þe alle þine leomen wule to-draȝen. þeh þu weore stel al.
    • circa 1473 William Caxton translating Raoul Le Fèvre, The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, I:
      Employeng the steell of his swerd the most best wyse that in hym was possible.
    • circa 1480 St. Mary Magdalen, 408 in 1896, W. M. Metcalfe, Legends Saints Sc. Dial., I 267:
      Weman...with wordis cane rycht wele our-cum mene hard as stele.
    • 1601, P. Holland translating Pliny, Hist. World, II xxxiv xiv 514:
      The purest part thereof [of iron ore] which in Latine is called Nucleus ferri, i. the kernell or heart of the yron (and it is that which we call steele)
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, […] (King James Version), imprinted at London: By Robert Barker, […], OCLC 964384981 ↗, Jeremiah 15:12 ↗:
      Shall yron breake the Northren yron, and the steele?
      (The Hebrew word is נחשת meaning copper. "Bow of steele" occurs in three places translating קשת נחושה.)
    • circa 1616 William Shakespeare, Antony & Cleopatra, IV iv 33:
      ...Like a man of Steele.
    • 1946, Thorpe's Dictionary of Applied Chemistry 4th ed., VII 47 1:
      Steel may be roughly defined as an alloy of iron and carbon containing up to 1.7% carbon, all of the carbon being in the combined condition. A second definition, distinguishing it from cast or wrought iron, is that it has been produced in the molten condition, and a third states that steel can be hardened by quenching from a suitably high temperature. There are...certain exceptions to all these definitions.
    • 1976 Jul, Scientific American, 68 2:
      For the iron to be made into steel (defined as iron with a carefully controlled carbon content of 1.7 percent or less) the sulfur, the silicon, and the excess carbon must be removed.
  2. (countable) Any item made of this metal, particularly including:
    1. Bladed or pointed weapons, as swords, javelins, daggers.
      • circa 1250 The Owl & the Nightengale, 1030:
        For heom ne may halter ne bridel Bringe from here wode wyse, Ne mon mid stele ne mid ire.
      • circa 1606 William Shakespeare, The Tragedie of Macbeth, I ii 35
        For braue Macbeth (well hee deſerues that Name)
        Diſdayning Fortune, with his brandiſht Steele,
        Which ſmoak'd with bloody execution
        (Like Valours Minion) caru'd out his paſſage.
      • 1712, Lord Shaftesbury, Characteristicks, III 115:
        But who wou'd dream that out of abundant Charity and Brotherly Love shou'd come Steel, Fire, Gibbets, Rods.
      • 1892, Rudyard Kipling, Barrack-room Ballads, 139:
        They have asked for the steel. They shall have it now; Out cutlasses and board!
      • 1905, Oliver Elton translating Saxo-Grammaticus, The Nine Books of the Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus, II:
        While one man was beating off the swords, the waters stole up silently and took him. Contrariwise, another was struggling with the waves, when the steel came up and encompassed him. The flowing waters were befouled with the gory spray. Thus the Ruthenians were conquered...
    2. A piece used for striking sparks from flint.
      • circa 1220 Bestiary, 535:
        Of ston mid stel in ðe tunder wel to brennen one ðis wunder.
      • 1660, Robert Boyle, New Experiments Physico-mechanicall, XIV 89:
        The Cock falling with its wonted violence upon the Steel.
    3. Armor.
      • circa 1330 Sir Tristrem, L 3324:
        Þai gun hem boþe armi In iren and stiel þat tide.
      • 1603, William Shakespeare, Hamlet, I iv 33:
        In compleate steele.
      • 1637, John Milton, Comus, 421:
        She that has [chastity], is clad in compleat steel.
    4. A honing steel, a tool used to sharpen or hone metal blades.
      • 1541 in 1844, J. Stuart, Extracts of the Council Register of Aberdeen, I 176:
        The steill to scherp the schawing jrne.
      • 1883, Howard Pyle, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, V:
        When he came to Nottingham, he entered that part of the market where butchers stood, and took up his inn in the best place he could find. Next, he opened his stall and spread his meat upon the bench, then, taking his cleaver and steel and clattering them together, he trolled aloud in merry tones...
    5. (sewing) Pieces used to strengthen, support, or expand an item of clothing.
      • 1608, G. Markham & al., Dumbe Knight, I:
        I haue a ruffe is a quarter deep, measured by the yeard... You haue a pretty set too, how big is the steele you set with?
      • 1904 Feb 22, Daily Chron, 5 4:
        I suppose the bullet must have struck the steels in my corsets.
    6. (dialectal) A flat iron.
      • 1638, J. Taylor, Bull, Beare, & Horse, C5:
        One of them having occasion to use a Steele, smoothing Iron, or some such kinde of Laundry Instrument.
    7. (sewing, dialectal) A sewing needle; a knitting needle; a sharp metal stylus.
      • 1785, William Cowper, Task, IV 165:
        The threaded steel...Flies swiftly.
    8. (printing) An engraving plate:
      • 1843, J. Ballantine, The gaberlunzie's wallet. With numerous illustrations on steel and wood.
      • 1887 Jun 11, Athenæum, 779 1:
        A re-issue of the Examples of the Architecture of Venice. By John Ruskin... With the Text, and the 16 Plates (10 Steels and 6 Lithographs) as originally published.
    9. Projectiles.
      • 1898 Jun 1, Westminster Gazette, 5 1:
        The crews at the port batteries were pumping steel at the enemy.
    10. (sewing) A fringe of beads or decoration of this metal.
      • 1899 Jan 26, Daily News, 6 3:
        A trailing skirt embroidered in what is termed fine steel.
    11. (music, guitar) A type of slide used while playing the steel guitar.
  3. (uncountable, medicine, obsolete) Medicinal consumption of this metal; chalybeate medicine; (eventually) any iron or iron-treated water consumed as a medical treatment.
    • 1649, H. Hammond, Christians Obligations, X 253:
      A stronger physick is now necessary, perhaps a whole course of steel: A physick, God knowes, that this Kingdome hath been under five or six yeares.
    • 1704, J. Harris, Lexicon Technicum, L:
      Steel is not so good as Iron for Medicinal Operation.
    • 1712 Sept 18, Jonathan Swift, Journal to Stella, II 558:
      The Doctor tells me I must go into a Course of Steel, tho I have not the Spleen.
    • 1866, Princess Alice, Mem., 158: really only kept alive by steel.
  4. (countable) Varieties of this metal.
    • 1839, A. Ure, Dict. Arts, 1172:
      The bars are exposed to two or three successive processes of cementation, and are hence said to be twice or thrice converted into steels.
  5. (uncountable, colors) The gray hue of this metal; steel-gray, or steel blue.
    • 1851 Dec 28, E. Ruskin, letter in 1965, M. Lutyens, Effie in Venice, II 236:
      Falkenhayn Jane a steel glacé silk dress.
    • 1851, Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, 132:
      It was a clear steel-blue day. The firmaments of air and sea were hardly separable in that all-pervading azure; only, the pensive air was transparently pure and soft, with a woman’s look, and the robust and man-like sea heaved with long, strong, lingering swells, as Samson’s chest in his sleep.
  6. (figurative) Extreme hardness or resilience.
Translations Translations Adjective

steel (not comparable)

  1. Made of steel.
    • mid-14th century, Alisaunder, 416:
      Strained in stel ger on steedes of might.
    • circa 1616 William Shakespeare, Othello, I iii 229
      The tyrant custome...Hath made the flinty and steele Cooch of warre, My thrice driuen bed of downe.
    • 1829, Walter Scott, Anne of Geierstein, III iii 78:
      I will grasp the mountain-hedgehog, prickles and all, with my steel-gauntlet.
    • 1976, J. Wheeler-Bennett, Friends, Enemies, & Sovereigns, V 156:
      King Peter attributed his father's, King Alexander's, death to the fact that...he had not worn his steel-mesh bullet-proof shirt.
  2. Similar to steel in color, strength, or the like; steely.
    • circa 1560 T. Phaer translating Vergil, Nyne Fyrst Books of the Eneidos, X:
      Wher neuer cessing soyle doth steelebright stuff send out from mines.
    • 1609, William Shakespeare, Sonnet CXXXIII:
      Prison my heart in thy steele bosomes warde.
  3. (business) Of or belonging to the manufacture or trade in steel.
    • 1601, Philemon Holland translating Pliny, The Historie of the World, I vii lvi 188:
      ...The discoverie of the yron and steele mines.
    • 1837, Thomas Carlyle, French Revolution: A History, III v vi 327:
      From their new dungeons at Chantilly, Aristocrats may hear the rustle of our new steel furnace there.
    • 1976 Jan 24, National Observer, 1 1:
      East Chicago, Ind., a smoky Lake Michigan steel town that isn't exactly famous for its esthetic splendor even when the sun shines.
  4. (medicine, obsolete) Containing steel.
    • 1652, J. French, York-shire Spaw, X 92:
      To mix some Sugar of steel, or steel wine with the first glass.
    • 1675, G. Harvey, Dis. of London, XXIV 264:
      I have found a singular Virtue in Steel drops, præpared after my Mode.
    • 1713 Feb 17, Jonathan Swift, Journal to Stella, II 622:
      I...take some nasty steel drops, & may head has been bettr.
  5. (printing) Engraved on steel.
    • 1880, Mark Twain, letter:
      The best picture I have had yet is the steel frontis-piece to my new book.
Translations Translations Verb

steel (steels, present participle steeling; past and past participle steeled)

  1. (transitive) To edge, cover, or point with steel.
    • circa 1240 Sawles Warde in The Cotton Homilies, 253:
      Hure þolien ant a beoren hare unirude duntes wið mealles istelet.
    • 1597, William Shakespeare, Richard III, I i 148:
      • Ile in to vrge his hatred more to Clarence, With lies well steeld with weighty arguments.
    • 1651, Bishop Jeremy Taylor, XXVIII Sermons Preacht at Golden Grove, Being for the Summer Half-year, XIX 248:
      When God...draws aside his curtain, and shows his arsenal and his armory, full of arrows steeled with wrath.
    • 1831, John Holland, A Treatise on the Progressive Improvement and Present State of the Manufactures in Metal, I 220:
      It was the common notion...that the art of steeling tools in the highest degree of perfection was certainly lost to the moderns.
  2. (transitive) To harden or strengthen; to nerve or make obdurate; to fortify against.
    • 1581, A. Hall translating Homer, 10 Bks. Iliades, VI 110:
      But stil he was so steelde With heart so good, as victor he dead left them in the field.
    • 1593, William Shakespeare, Venus & Adonis:
      Giue me my heart...O giue it me lest thy hard heart do steele it, And being steeld, soft sighes can neuer graue it.
    • 1796, F. Burney, Camilla, II iv vi 370:
      Steel yourself, then, firmly to withstand attacks from the cruel and unfeeling.
    • 1882, F. W. Farrar, Early Days Christianity, II 380:
      The rich experience of a long life steeled in the victorious struggle with every unchristian element.
  3. (transitive, obsolete, of mirrors) To back with steel.
    • circa 1630 John Donne, Sermons, VI 289:
      Nay, a Crystall glasse will not show a man his face, except it be steeled, except it be darkned on the backside.
  4. (transitive, medicine, obsolete) To treat a liquid with steel for medicinal purposes.
    • 1657, J. Cooke translating J. Hall, Cures, 117:
      She drunk her drink steeled, with which she was cured.
  5. (transitive, dialectal) To press with a flat iron.
    • 1746, Exmoor Scolding 3rd ed., II 14:
      Tha hasn't tha Sense to stile thy own Dressing.
  6. (transitive, uncommon) To cause to resemble steel in appearance.
    • 1807, William Wordsworth, Sonn. to Liberty, II v:
      And lo! those waters, steeled By breezeless air to smoothest polish, yield A vivid repetition of the stars.
  7. (transitive) To steelify; to turn iron into steel.
    • 1853 in Jrnl. Franklin Inst., CXXV 303:
      By passing an electric current thus through the bars the operation of steeling is much hastened.
    • 1977 Oct, Scientific American, 127 1:
      It seems evident that by the beginning of the 10th century B.C. blacksmiths were intentionally steeling iron.
  8. (transitive) To electroplate an item, particularly an engraving plate, with a layer of iron.
    • 1880, P. G. Hamerton, Etching & Etchers 3rd ed., 342:
      My large dry-point,...called Two Stumps of Driftwood, gave 1000 copies (after being steeled) without perceptible wearing.
  9. (transitive) To sharpen with a honing steel.
Synonyms Proper noun
  1. (UK, crime, slang, obsolete) Coldbath Fields Prison in London, closed in 1877.
    • 1866, George Augustus Sala, Edmund Hodgson Yates, Temple Bar, volume 16, page 507:
      He said he had been in the “steel” (Coldbath Fields Prison) eight times.
    • 1879, Macmillan's Magazine, volume 40, page 502:
      This time I got two moon for assaulting the reelers when canon. For this I went to the Steel (Bastile[sic] — Coldbath Fields Prison), having a new suit of clobber on me and about fifty blow in my brigh (pocket).

Proper noun
  1. Surname

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