in step


  1. a movement made by lifting the foot and setting it down again in a new position, accompanied by a shifting of the weight of the body in the direction of the new position, as in walking, running, or dancing.
  2. such a movement followed by a movement of equal distance of the other foot: The soldier took one step forward and stood at attention.
  3. the space passed over or the distance measured by one such movement of the foot.
  4. the sound made by the foot in making such a movement.
  5. a mark or impression made by the foot on the ground; footprint.
  6. the manner of walking; gait; stride.
  7. pace in marching: double-quick step.
  8. a pace uniform with that of another or others, or in time with music.
  9. steps, movements or course in walking or running: to retrace one’s steps.
  10. a move, act, or proceeding, as toward some end or in the general course of some action; stage, measure, or period: the five steps to success.
  11. rank, degree, or grade, as on a vertical scale.
  12. a support for the foot in ascending or descending: a step of a ladder; a stair of 14 steps.
  13. a very short distance: She was never more than a step away from her children.
  14. a repeated pattern or unit of movement in a dance formed by a combination of foot and body motions.
  15. step aerobics.
  16. Music.
    1. a degree of the staff or of the scale.
    2. the interval between two adjacent scale degrees; second.Compare semitone, whole step.
  17. steps, British. a stepladder.
  18. an offset part of anything.
  19. Nautical. a socket, frame, or platform for supporting the lower end of a mast.
  20. Mining. a flat-topped ledge on the face of a quarry or a mine working.

verb (used without object), stepped, step·ping.

  1. to move, go, etc., by lifting the foot and setting it down again in a new position, or by using the feet alternately in this manner: to step forward.
  2. to walk, or go on foot, especially for a few strides or a short distance: Step over to the bar.
  3. to move with measured steps, as in a dance.
  4. to go briskly or fast, as a horse.
  5. to obtain, find, win, come upon, etc., something easily and naturally, as if by a mere step of the foot: to step into a good business opportunity.
  6. to put the foot down; tread by intention or accident: to step on a cat’s tail.
  7. to press with the foot, as on a lever, spring, or the like, in order to operate some mechanism.

verb (used with object), stepped, step·ping.

  1. to take (a step, pace, stride, etc.).
  2. to go through or perform the steps of (a dance).
  3. to move or set (the foot) in taking a step.
  4. to measure (a distance, ground, etc.) by steps (sometimes followed by off or out).
  5. to make or arrange in the manner of a series of steps.
  6. Nautical. to fix (a mast) in its step.

Verb Phrases

  1. step down,
    1. to lower or decrease by degrees.
    2. to relinquish one’s authority or control; resign: Although he was past retirement age, he refused to step down and let his son take over the business.
  2. step in, to become involved; intervene, as in a quarrel or fight: The brawl was well under way by the time the police stepped in.
  3. step out,
    1. to leave a place, especially for a brief period of time.
    2. to walk or march at a more rapid pace.
    3. to go out to a social gathering or on a date: We’re stepping out tonight.
  4. step up,
    1. to raise or increase by degrees: to step up production.
    2. to be promoted; advance.
    3. to make progress; improve.
  1. break step, to interrupt or cease walking or marching in step: The marching units were allowed to break step after they had passed the reviewing stand.
  2. in step,
    1. moving in time to a rhythm or with the corresponding step of others.
    2. in harmony or conformity with: They are not in step with the times.
  3. keep step, to keep pace; stay in step: The construction of classrooms and the training of teachers have not kept step with population growth.
  4. out of step,
    1. not in time to a rhythm or corresponding to the step of others.
    2. not in harmony or conformity with: They are out of step with the others in their group.
  5. step by step,
    1. from one stage to the next in sequence.
    2. gradually and steadily: We were shown the steelmaking process step by step.
  6. step on it, Informal. to hasten one’s activity or steps; hurry up: If we don’t step on it, we’ll miss the show.
  7. take steps, to set about putting something into operation; begin to act: I will take steps to see that your application is processed.
  8. watch one’s step, to proceed with caution; behave prudently: If she doesn’t watch her step, she will be fired from her job.


  1. the act of motion brought about by raising the foot and setting it down again in coordination with the transference of the weight of the body
  2. the distance or space covered by such a motion
  3. the sound made by such a movement
  4. the impression made by such movement of the foot; footprint
  5. the manner of walking or moving the feet; gaithe received his prize with a proud step
  6. a sequence of foot movements that make up a particular dance or part of a danceI have mastered the steps of the waltz
  7. any of several paces or rhythmic movements in marching, dancing, etcthe goose step
  8. (plural) a course followed by a person in walking or as walkingthey followed in their leader’s steps
  9. one of a sequence of separate consecutive stages in the progression towards some goalanother step towards socialism
  10. a rank or grade in a series or scalehe was always a step behind
  11. an object or device that offers support for the foot when ascending or descending
  12. (plural) a flight of stairs, esp out of doors
  13. (plural) another name for stepladder
  14. a very short easily walked distanceit is only a step to my place
  15. music a melodic interval of a secondSee whole tone, half-step
  16. an offset or change in the level of a surface similar to the step of a stair
  17. a strong block or frame bolted onto the keel of a vessel and fitted to receive the base of a mast
  18. a ledge cut in mining or quarrying excavations
  19. break step to cease to march in step
  20. in step
    1. marching, dancing, etc, in conformity with a specified pace or moving in unison with others
    2. informalin agreement or harmony
  21. keep step to remain walking, marching, dancing, etc, in unison or in a specified rhythm
  22. out of step
    1. not moving in conformity with a specified pace or in accordance with others
    2. informalnot in agreement; out of harmony
  23. step by step with care and deliberation; gradually
  24. take steps to undertake measures (to do something) with a view to the attainment of some end
  25. watch one’s step
    1. informalto conduct oneself with caution and good behaviour
    2. to walk or move carefully

verb steps, stepping or stepped

  1. (intr) to move by raising the foot and then setting it down in a different position, transferring the weight of the body to this foot and repeating the process with the other foot
  2. (intr; often foll by in, out, etc) to move or go on foot, esp for a short distancestep this way, ladies
  3. (intr) informal, mainly US to move, often in an attractive graceful manner, as in dancinghe can really step around
  4. (intr; usually foll by on or upon) to place or press the foot; treadto step on the accelerator
  5. (intr usually foll by into) to enter (into a situation) apparently with easeshe stepped into a life of luxury
  6. (tr) to walk or take (a number of paces, etc)to step ten paces
  7. (tr) to perform the steps ofthey step the tango well
  8. (tr) to set or place (the foot)
  9. (tr; usually foll by off or out) to measure (some distance of ground) by stepping
  10. (tr) to arrange in or supply with a series of steps so as to avoid coincidence or symmetry
  11. (tr) to raise (a mast) and fit it into its step


    1. a set of aerobic exercises designed to improve the cardiovascular system, which consists of stepping on and off a special box of adjustable height
    2. (as modifier)Step aerobics

n acronym for

  1. Special Temporary Employment Programme

Old English steppan (Anglian), stæppan (West Saxon) “take a step,” from West Germanic *stap- “tread” (cf. Old Frisian, Middle Dutch, Dutch stap, Old High German stapfo, German stapfe “footstep”), from PIE root *stebh- “to tread, step” (cf. Old Church Slavonic stopa “step, pace,” stepeni “step, degree”). Originally strong (past tense stop, past participle bestapen); weak forms emerged 13c., universal from 16c. Stepping stone first recorded early 14c.; in the figurative sense 1650s. Step on it “hurry up” is 1923, from notion of gas pedal; step out (v.) is from 1907.


Old English steppa (Mercian), stæpe, stepe (West Saxon) “stair, act of stepping,” from the source of step (v.). Meaning “action which leads toward a result” is recorded from 1540s. Warning phrase watch your step is attested from 1934. Step-dancing first recorded 1886.


Moving to a rhythm or conforming to the movements of others, as in The kids marched in step to the music. [Late 1800s]


in step with. In conformity or harmony with, as in He was in step with the times. The antonym to both usages is out of step, as in They’re out of step with the music, or His views are out of step with the board’s. [Late 1800s] Also see in phase; out of phase.

In addition to the idioms beginning with step

  • step aside
  • step by step
  • step down
  • step in
  • step in the right direction, a
  • step into
  • step into someone’s shoes
  • step on it
  • step on someone’s toes
  • step out
  • step out of line
  • step up

also see:

  • false step
  • in step
  • (step) out of line
  • take steps
  • watch one’s step

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