Sea foam


From Middle English fome, fom, from Old English fām, from Proto-Germanic *faimaz, from Proto-Indo-European *(s)poHy-m-os, from *(s)poH(y)- (foam). Cognate with German Feim (foam), Latin spūma (foam), Latin pūmex (pumice), Sanskrit फेन (phéna, foam), possibly Northern Kurdish (epilepsy).



foam (countable and uncountable, plural foams)

  1. A substance composed of a large collection of bubbles or their solidified remains, especially:
    Synonym: froth
    • 2013 May-June, Charles T. Ambrose, “Alzheimer’s Disease”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 3, page 200:
      Similar studies of rats have employed four different intracranial resorbable, slow sustained release systems—surgical foam, a thermal gel depot, a microcapsule or biodegradable polymer beads.
    1. A collection of small bubbles created when the surface of a body of water is moved by tides, wind, etc.
      Synonyms: surf, spindrift, spume, spray
      • c. 1607, William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens, Act V, Scene 1,[1]
        ’Tis thou that rigg’st the bark and plough’st the foam,
      • 1798, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in Lyrical Ballads, London: J. & A. Arch, p. 12,[2]
        The breezes blew, the white foam flew, / The furrow follow’d free: / We were the first that ever burst / Into that silent Sea.
      • 1838, Edgar Allan Poe, “Siope” in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1840, Volume 2, p. 22,[3]
        And the heaven became livid with the violence of the tempest [] and the river was tormented into foam []
      • 1969, Elechi Amadi, The Great Ponds, London: Heinemann, 1970, Chapter 5, p. 45,[4]
        Many [of the fish-traps] were full of fish that raised foam as they splashed about.
    2. A collection of small bubbles formed from bodily fluids such as saliva or sweat.
      • 1839, Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, London: Richard Bentley, Volume 3, Chapter 45, p. 190,[5]
        “Again. Tell it again!” cried Fagin, tightening his grasp on Sikes, and brandishing his other hand aloft as the foam flew from his lips.
      • 1954, C. S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy, London: Collins, 1974, Chapter 9, p. 118,[6]
        The horses were flecked with foam and their breathing was noisy.
    3. A collection of small bubbles on the surface of a liquid that is heated, fermented or carbonated.
      Synonyms: effervescence, fizz, head, mousse
      • 1859, George Eliot, Adam Bede, Edinburgh: William Blackwood, Volume 2, Chapter 21, p. 122,[7]
        a quart jug with a crown of foam upon it
      • 1938, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, The Yearling, New York: Scribner, Chapter 15, p. 174,[8]
        The last of the milk vanished in a swirl of foam and gurgling.
      • 1958, Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, New York: Astor-Honor, 1959, Part 1, Chapter 8, p. 74,[9]
        It was a very good palm-wine and powerful, for in spite of the palm fruit hung across the mouth of the pot to restrain the lively liquor, white foam rose and spilled over.
      • 1988, Anne Tyler, Breathing Lessons, New York: Viking, Part 2, p. 167,[10]
        A slender thread of soft-drink foam traced her upper lip;
    4. A collection of small bubbles created by mixing soap with water.
      Synonyms: lather, suds
    5. (firefighting) A collection of small bubbles formed by mixing an extinguishing agent with water, used to cover and extinguish fires.
  2. A material formed by trapping pockets of gas in a liquid or solid.
    A foam mat can soften a hard seat.
  3. (figuratively, poetic) The sea.
    He is in Europe, across the foam.
  4. Fury.

Derived termsEdit



foam (third-person singular simple present foams, present participle foaming, simple past and past participle foamed)

  1. (intransitive) To form or emit foam.
    • c. 1606, William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, Act II, Scene 6, [15]
      [] And that is it
      Hath made me rig my navy; at whose burthen
      The anger'd ocean foams; with which I meant
      To scourge the ingratitude that despiteful Rome
      Cast on my noble father.
    • 1706, Isaac Watts, “The Day of Judgement,” lines 1-2, [16]
      When the fierce North-wind with his airy forces
      Rears up the Baltic to a foaming fury;
    • 1908, G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday, Chapter 8, [17]
      They were both silent for a measure of moments, and then Syme's speech came with a rush, like the sudden foaming of champagne.
  2. (intransitive) To spew saliva as foam, to foam at the mouth.
    • c. 1591, William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 3, Act II, Scene 1, [18]
      [] to London will we march amain,
      And once again bestride our foaming steeds,
      And once again cry ‘Charge upon our foes!’
      But never once again turn back and fly.
    • 1611, King James Version of the Bible, Mark 9:17-18, [19]
      Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away.
    • 1748, John Cleland, Fanny Hill, Letter the First, Part 1, [20]
      But I was talking to the wind; for whether my tears, my attitude, or the disorder of my dress prov'd fresh incentives, or whether he was not under the dominion of desires he could not bridle, but snorting and foaming with lust and rage, he renews his attack, seizes me, and again attempts to extend and fix me on the settee []
  3. (firefighting) To coat or cover with foam.
    It used to be common practice to foam the runway prior to an emergency landing, in case a fuel-fed fire occurred.

Derived termsEdit