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[steer-ij] /ˈstɪər ɪdʒ/
a part or division of a ship, formerly the part containing the steering apparatus.
(in a passenger ship) the part or accommodations allotted to the passengers who travel at the cheapest rate.
Origin of steerage
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English sterage. See steer1, -age Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for steerage
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Historical Examples
  • A huge roller had hurled itself over the steerage, and broken a man's arm; but the part of the vessel she was on kept pretty dry.

    Bluebell Mrs. George Croft Huddleston
  • There was a great deal of silent skirmishing in the steerage.

    Down the Rhine Oliver Optic
  • Everything was scrupulously clean, but of the plainest kind, and "steerage" seemed written everywhere.

    Bessie's Fortune Mary J. Holmes
  • Taking a bucket and a lantern, he passed into the steerage, and opened the scuttle.

    Down the Rhine Oliver Optic
  • You seldom came aboard the frigate but we had him in the steerage among us reefers, to hear his long yarns, and share our cheer.

    The Pilot J. Fenimore Cooper
  • Over forty of the students have been in the steerage since the ship sailed.

    Down the Rhine Oliver Optic
  • All the companies provide ample and wholesome fare for their steerage passengers.

    The Sea Rovers Rufus Rockwell Wilson
  • They had only to look out for the adult officers now, and in the steerage they were by themselves.

    Down the Rhine Oliver Optic
  • He did not have $10 when he arrived—in fact, he went there in the steerage of one of the Government transports.

British Dictionary definitions for steerage


the cheapest accommodation on a passenger ship, originally the compartments containing the steering apparatus
an instance or the practice of steering and the effect of this on a vessel or vehicle
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for steerage

mid-15c., "action of steering," from steer (v.) + -age. Meaning "part of a ship in front of the chief cabin" is from 1610s; originally where the steering apparatus of the ship was, it retained the name after the introduction of the deck wheel in early 18c.; hence meaning "section of a ship with the cheapest accommodations," first recorded 1804.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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