adjective, dead·er, dead·est.


the period of greatest darkness, coldness, etc.: the dead of night; the dead of winter.
the dead, dead persons collectively: Prayers were recited for the dead.


Nearby words

  1. deacon seat,
  2. deaconess,
  3. deaconry,
  4. deactivate,
  5. deacylase,
  6. dead ahead,
  7. dead air,
  8. dead and buried,
  9. dead arm,
  10. dead as a doornail


    dead in the water, completely inactive or inoperable; no longer in action or under consideration: Our plans to expand the business have been dead in the water for the past two months.
    dead to rights, in the very act of committing a crime, offense, or mistake; red-handed.

Origin of dead

before 950; Middle English deed, Old English dēad; cognate with Gothic dauths, German tot, Old Norse daudhr; orig. past participle See die1


Related formsdead·ness, nounhalf-dead, adjective

Synonym study

1. Dead, deceased, extinct, lifeless refer to something that does not have or appear to have life. Dead is usually applied to something that had life but from which life is now gone: dead trees. Deceased, a more formal word than dead, is applied to human beings who no longer have life: a deceased member of the church. Extinct is applied to a species, genus, or the like, no member of which is any longer alive: Mastodons are now extinct. Lifeless is applied to something that may or may not have had life but that does not have it or appear to have it now: The lifeless body of a child was taken out of the water. Minerals consist of lifeless materials. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for dead in the water



  1. no longer alive
  2. (as noun)the dead
not endowed with life; inanimate
no longer in use, valid, effective, or relevanta dead issue; a dead language
unresponsive or unaware; insensiblehe is dead to my strongest pleas
lacking in freshness, interest, or vitalitya dead handshake
devoid of physical sensation; numbhis gums were dead from the anaesthetic
resembling death; deathlikea dead sleep
no longer burning or hotdead coals
(of flowers or foliage) withered; faded
(prenominal) (intensifier)a dead stop; a dead loss
informal very tired
  1. drained of electric charge; fully dischargedthe battery was dead
  2. not connected to a source of potential difference or electric charge
lacking acoustic reverberationa dead sound; a dead surface
sport (of a ball, etc) out of play
unerring; accurate; precise (esp in the phrase a dead shot)
lacking resilience or bouncea dead ball
  1. (of type) set but no longer needed for useCompare standing (def. 7)
  2. (of copy) already composed
not yielding a return; idledead capital
informal certain to suffer a terrible fate; doomedyou're dead if your mother catches you at that
(of colours) not glossy or bright; lacklustre
stagnantdead air
military shielded from view, as by a geographic feature or environmental conditiona dead zone; dead space
dead as a doornail informal completely dead
dead from the neck up informal stupid or unintelligent
dead in the water informal unsuccessful, and with little hope of future successthe talks are now dead in the water
dead to the world informal unaware of one's surroundings, esp fast asleep or very drunk
leave for dead
  1. to abandon
  2. informalto surpass or outdistance by far
wouldn't be seen dead in informal to refuse to wear or to go to


a period during which coldness, darkness, or some other quality associated with death is at its most intensethe dead of winter


(intensifier)dead easy; stop dead; dead level
dead on exactly right
Derived Formsdeadness, noun

Word Origin for dead

Old English dēad; related to Old High German tōt, Old Norse dauthr; see die 1

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 dead in the water


Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for dead in the water




Having lost life; no longer alive.
Lacking feeling or sensitivity; unresponsive.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with dead in the water

dead in the water

Unable to function or move; inoperable. For example, Without an effective leader, our plans for expansion are dead in the water. Originally referring to a crippled ship, this colloquialism was soon applied more broadly.


In addition to the idioms beginning with dead

  • dead ahead
  • dead and buried
  • dead as a doornail
  • dead beat
  • dead drunk
  • dead duck
  • dead end
  • dead from the neck up
  • dead heat
  • dead horse
  • dead in one's tracks
  • dead in the water
  • dead letter
  • dead loss
  • dead man
  • dead of
  • dead on one's feet
  • dead ringer
  • dead set against
  • dead soldier
  • dead tired
  • dead to rights
  • dead to the world
  • dead weight

also see:

  • beat a dead horse
  • caught dead
  • cut someone dead
  • drop dead
  • knock dead
  • more dead than alive
  • over my dead body
  • quick and the dead
  • stop cold (dead)
  • to wake the dead

Also see underdeath.

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