the act of a person or thing that dresses.
a sauce for food: salad dressing.
stuffing for a fowl: turkey dressing.
material used to dress or cover a wound.
manure, compost, or other fertilizers.
the ornamental detail of a building, especially that around openings.

Origin of dressing

late Middle English word dating back to 1400–50; see origin at dress, -ing1




an outer garment for women and girls, consisting of bodice and skirt in one piece.
clothing; apparel; garb: The dress of the 18th century was colorful.
formal attire.
a particular form of appearance; guise.
outer covering, as the plumage of birds.


of or for a dress or dresses.
of or for a formal occasion.
requiring formal dress.

verb (used with object), dressed or drest, dress·ing.

to put clothing upon.
to put formal or evening clothes on.
to trim; ornament; adorn: to dress a store window; to dress a Christmas tree.
to design clothing for or sell clothes to.
to comb out and do up (hair).
to cut up, trim, and remove the skin, feathers, viscera, etc., from (an animal, meat, fowl, or flesh of a fowl) for market or for cooking (often followed by out when referring to a large animal): We dressed three chickens for the dinner. He dressed out the deer when he got back to camp.
to prepare (skins, fabrics, timber, stone, ore, etc.) by special processes.
to apply medication or a dressing to (a wound or sore).
to make straight; bring (troops) into line: to dress ranks.
to make (stone, wood, or other building material) smooth.
to cultivate (land, fields, etc.).
Theater. to arrange (a stage) by effective placement of properties, scenery, actors, etc.
to ornament (a vessel) with ensigns, house flags, code flags, etc.: The bark was dressed with masthead flags only.
  1. to prepare or bait (a fishhook) for use.
  2. to prepare (bait, especially an artificial fly) for use.
Printing. to fit (furniture) around and between pages in a chase prior to locking it up.
to supply with accessories, optional features, etc.: to have one's new car fully dressed.

verb (used without object), dressed or drest, dress·ing.

to clothe or attire oneself; put on one's clothes: Wake up and dress, now!
to put on or wear formal or fancy clothes: to dress for dinner.
to come into line, as troops.
to align oneself with the next soldier, marcher, dancer, etc., in line.

Verb Phrases

dress down,
  1. to reprimand; scold.
  2. to thrash; beat.
  3. to dress informally or less formally: to dress down for the shipboard luau.
dress up,
  1. to put on one's best or fanciest clothing; dress relatively formally: They were dressed up for the Easter parade.
  2. to dress in costume or in another person's clothes: to dress up in Victorian clothing; to dress up as Marie Antoinette.
  3. to embellish or disguise, especially in order to make more appealing or acceptable: to dress up the facts with colorful details.


    dress ship,
    1. to decorate a ship by hoisting lines of flags running its full length.
    2. U.S. Navy.to display the national ensigns at each masthead and a larger ensign on the flagstaff.

Origin of dress

1275–1325; Middle English dressen < Anglo-French dresser, dresc(i)er, to arrange, prepare, Old French drecier < Vulgar Latin *dīrēctiāre, derivative of Latin dīrēctus direct; noun use of v. in sense “attire” from circa 1600
Related formshalf-dressed, adjectiveout·dress, verb (used with object)

Synonyms for dress

1. frock. 2. raiment, attire, clothes, habit, garments, vestments, habiliments. 9. clothe, robe, garb.

Synonym study

1. Dress, costume, gown refer to garments for women. Dress is the general term for a garment: a black dress. Costume is used of the style of dress appropriate to some occasion, purpose, period, or character, especially as used on the stage, at balls, at court, or the like, and may apply to men's garments as well: an 18th-century costume. Gown is usually applied to a dress more expensive and elegant than the ordinary, usually long, to be worn on a special occasion: a wedding gown.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for dressing

stuffing, filling, forcemeat, manure, compost, humus

Examples from the Web for dressing

Contemporary Examples of dressing

Historical Examples of dressing

  • Now hurry into your dressing gown and let's begin our letters.

  • In his dressing room he kept a large open bible in which he daily read.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • Dressing herself as quickly as possible, she hurried to go downstairs.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • You will observe that she has fine rugs in her dressing room and bathroom.

    Her Father's Daughter

    Gene Stratton-Porter

  • All the time he was dressing and taking his coffee he could hear her talking to some one.

    The Little Colonel

    Annie Fellows Johnston

British Dictionary definitions for dressing



a sauce for food, esp for salad
US and Canadian a mixture of chopped and seasoned ingredients with which poultry, meat, etc, is stuffed before cookingAlso called (in Britain and certain other countries): stuffing
a covering for a wound, sore, etc
manure or artificial fertilizer spread on land
size used for stiffening textiles
the processes in the conversion of certain rough tanned hides into leather ready for use
See also dressings



to put clothes on (oneself or another); attire
  1. to change one's clothes
  2. to wear formal or evening clothes
(tr) to provide (someone) with clothing; clothe
(tr) to arrange merchandise in (a shop window) for effective display
(tr) to comb out or arrange (the hair) into position
(tr) to apply protective or therapeutic covering to (a wound, sore, etc)
(tr) to prepare (food, esp fowl and fish) for cooking or serving by cleaning, trimming, gutting, etc
(tr) to put a finish on (the surface of stone, metal, etc)
(tr) to till and cultivate (land), esp by applying manure, compost, or fertilizer
(tr) to prune and trim (trees, bushes, etc)
(tr) to groom (an animal, esp a horse)
(tr) to convert (tanned hides) into leather
(tr) archaic to spay or neuter (an animal)
angling to tie (a fly)
military to bring (troops) into line or (of troops) to come into line (esp in the phrase dress ranks)
dress ship nautical to decorate a vessel by displaying all signal flags on lines run from the bow to the stern over the mast trucks


a one-piece garment for a woman, consisting of a skirt and bodice
complete style of clothing; costumeformal dress; military dress
(modifier) suitable or required for a formal occasiona dress shirt
the outer covering or appearance, esp of living thingstrees in their spring dress of leaves

Word Origin for dress

C14: from Old French drecier, ultimately from Latin dīrigere to direct
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 dressing

mid-14c., verbal noun from dress (v.). Sense in cookery is from c.1500. Meaning "bandage" is first recorded 1713. Dressing gown attested from 1777; dressing room from 1670s.



early 14c., "make straight; direct, guide, control, prepare for cooking," from Old French dresser, drecier "raise (oneself), address, prepare, lift, raise, hoist, set up, arrange, set (a table), serve (food), straighten, put right, direct," from Vulgar Latin *directiare, from Latin directus "direct, straight" (see direct (v.)).

Sense of "decorate, adorn" is late 14c., as is that of "put on clothing." Original sense survives in military meaning "align columns of troops." Dress up "attire elaborately" is from 1670s; dressing down "wearing clothes less formal than expected" is from 1960. To dress (someone) down (1769) is ironical. Related: Dressed; dressing.



c.1600, originally any clothing, especially that appropriate to rank or to some ceremony; sense of "woman's garment" is first recorded 1630s, with overtones of "made not merely to clothe but to adorn." Dress rehearsal first recorded 1828.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

dressing in Medicine




A therapeutic or protective material applied to a wound.




To apply medication, bandages, or other therapeutic materials to an area of the body such as a wound.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.