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verb (used with object), bred, breed·ing.
  1. to produce (offspring); procreate; engender.
  2. to produce by mating; propagate sexually; reproduce: Ten mice were bred in the laboratory.
  3. Horticulture.
    1. to cause to reproduce by controlled pollination.
    2. to improve by controlled pollination and selection.
  4. to raise (cattle, sheep, etc.): He breeds longhorns on the ranch.
  5. to cause or be the source of; engender; give rise to: Dirt breeds disease. Stagnant water breeds mosquitoes.
  6. to develop by training or education; bring up; rear: He was born and bred a gentleman.
  7. Energy. to produce more fissile nuclear fuel than is consumed in a reactor.
  8. to impregnate; mate: Breed a strong mare with a fast stallion and hope for a Derby winner.
verb (used without object), bred, breed·ing.
  1. to produce offspring: Many animals breed in the spring.
  2. to be engendered or produced; grow; develop: Bacteria will not breed in alcohol.
  3. to cause the birth of young, as in raising stock.
  4. to be pregnant.
  1. Genetics. a relatively homogenous group of animals within a species, developed and maintained by humans.
  2. lineage; stock; strain: She comes from a fine breed of people.
  3. sort; kind; group: Scholars are a quiet breed.
  4. Disparaging and Offensive. half-breed(def 1).

Origin of breed

before 1000; Middle English breden, Old English brēdan to nourish (cognate with Old High German bruotan, German brüten); noun use from 16th century
Related formsbreed·a·ble, adjectiveo·ver·breed, verb (used with object), o·ver·bred, o·ver·breed··breed, verb, re·bred, re·breed·ing.sub·breed, noun

Synonyms for breed

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for breed


verb breeds, breeding or bred
  1. to bear (offspring)
  2. (tr) to bring up; raise
  3. to produce or cause to produce by mating; propagate
  4. to produce and maintain new or improved strains of (domestic animals and plants)
  5. to produce or be produced; generateto breed trouble; violence breeds in densely populated areas
  1. a group of organisms within a species, esp a group of domestic animals, originated and maintained by man and having a clearly defined set of characteristics
  2. a lineage or racea breed of Europeans
  3. a kind, sort, or groupa special breed of hatred

Word Origin for breed

Old English brēdan, of Germanic origin; related to brood
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

Word Origin and History for breed

Old English bredan "bring young to birth, carry," also "cherish, keep warm," from West Germanic *brodjan (cf. Old High German bruoten, German brüten "to brood, hatch"), from *brod- "fetus, hatchling," from PIE *bhreue- "burn, heat" (see brood (n.)). Original notion of the word was incubation, warming to hatch. Sense of "grow up, be reared" (in a clan, etc.) is late 14c. Related: Bred; breeding.


"race, lineage, stock" (originally of animals), 1550s, from breed (v.). Of persons, from 1590s. Meaning "kind, species" is from 1580s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

breed in Science


  1. To produce or reproduce by giving birth or hatching.
  2. To raise animals or plants, often to produce new or improved types.
  1. A group of organisms having common ancestors and sharing certain traits that are not shared with other members of the same species. Breeds are usually produced by mating selected parents.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with breed


see familiarity breeds contempt.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.