"to guide," Old English lædan "cause to go with one, lead, guide, conduct, carry; sprout forth; bring forth, pass (one's life)," causative of liðan "to travel," from West Germanic *laidjan (cf. Old Saxon lithan, Old Norse liða "to go," Old High German ga-lidan "to travel," Gothic ga-leiþan "to go"), from PIE *leit- "to go forth."
Meaning "to be in first place" is from late 14c. Sense in card playing is from 1670s. Related: Led; leading. Lead-off "commencement, beginning" attested from 1879; lead-in "introduction, opening" is from 1928.
heavy metal, Old English lead, from West Germanic *loudhom (cf. Old Frisian lad, Middle Dutch loot, Dutch lood "lead," German Lot "weight, plummet"). The name and the skill in using the metal seem to have been borrowed from the Celts (cf. Old Irish luaide), probably from PIE root *plou(d)- "to flow."
Figurative of heaviness since at least early 14c. Black lead was an old name for "graphite," hence lead pencil (1680s) and the colloquial figurative phrase to have lead in one's pencil "be possessed of (especially male sexual) vigor," attested by 1902. Lead balloon "a failure," American English slang, attested by 1957 (as a type of something heavy that can be kept up only with effort, from 1904). Lead-footed "slow" is from 1896; opposite sense of "fast" emerged 1940s in trucker's jargon, from notion of a foot heavy on the gas pedal.
c.1300, "action of leading," from lead (v.1). Meaning "the front or leading place" is from 1560s. Johnson stigmatized it as "a low, despicable word." Sense in card-playing is from 1742; in theater, from 1831; in journalism, from 1912; in jazz bands, from 1934.
lead 1 (lēd)
Any of the conductors designed to detect changes in electrical potential when situated in or on the body and connected to an instrument that registers and records these changes, such as an electrocardiograph.
A record made from the current supplied by one of these conductors.
lead 2 (lěd)
A soft ductile dense metallic element. Atomic number 82; atomic weight 207.19; melting point 327.5°C; boiling point 1,749deg;C; specific gravity 11.35; valence 2, 4.
A soft, ductile, heavy, bluish-gray metallic element that is extracted chiefly from galena. It is very durable and resistant to corrosion and is a poor conductor of electricity. Lead is used to make radiation shielding and containers for corrosive substances. It was once commonly used in pipes, solder, roofing, paint, and antiknock compounds in gasoline, but its use in these products has been curtailed because of its toxicity. Atomic number 82; atomic weight 207.2; melting point 327.5°C; boiling point 1,744°C; specific gravity 11.35; valence 2, 4. See Periodic Table. See Note at element.
(Variations: of one's ass or of one's pants or of one's feet may be added) To stop loafing; GET one's ASS IN GEAR, hustle •Often an irritated command: Get the lead out and start writing (1920s+)