verb (used with object)


made of or containing lead: a lead pipe; a lead compound.


    get the lead out, Slang. to move or work faster; hurry up.
    heave the lead, Nautical. to take a sounding with a lead.
    go over like a lead balloon, Slang. to fail to arouse interest, enthusiasm, or support.

Origin of lead

before 900; Middle English lede, Old English lēad; cognate with Dutch lood, Old Frisian lād lead, German Lot plummet
Related formslead·less, adjective
Can be confusedlead led

Synonyms for lead

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for get the lead out


British Dictionary definitions for get the lead out



verb leads, leading or led (lɛd)

to show the way to (an individual or a group) by going with or aheadlead the party into the garden
to guide or be guided by holding, pulling, etche led the horse by its reins
(tr) to cause to act, feel, think, or behave in a certain way; induce; influencehe led me to believe that he would go
(tr) to phrase a question to (a witness) that tends to suggest the desired answer
(when intr, foll by to) (of a road, route, etc) to serve as the means of reaching a place
(tr) to go ahead so as to indicate (esp in the phrase lead the way)
to guide, control, or directto lead an army
(tr) to direct the course of or conduct (water, a rope or wire, etc) along or as if along a channel
to initiate the action of (something); have the principal part in (something)to lead a discussion
to go at the head of or have the top position in (something)he leads his class in geography
(intr foll by with) to have as the first or principal itemthe newspaper led with the royal birth
  1. Britishto play first violin in (an orchestra)
  2. (intr)(of an instrument or voice) to be assigned an important entry in a piece of music
to direct and guide (one's partner) in a dance
  1. to pass or spendI lead a miserable life
  2. to cause to pass a life of a particular kindto lead a person a dog's life
(intr foll by to) to tend (to) or result (in)this will only lead to misery
to initiate a round of cards by putting down (the first card) or to have the right to do thisshe led a diamond
(tr) to aim at a point in front of (a moving target) in shooting, etc, in order to allow for the time of flight
(intr) boxing to make an offensive blow, esp as one's habitual attacking punchsouthpaws lead with their right
lead astray to mislead so as to cause error or wrongdoing
lead by the nose See nose (def. 12)


  1. the first, foremost, or most prominent place
  2. (as modifier)lead singer
example, precedence, or leadershipthe class followed the teacher's lead
an advance or advantage held over othersthe runner had a lead of twenty yards
anything that guides or directs; indication; clue
another name for leash
the act or prerogative of playing the first card in a round of cards or the card so played
the principal role in a play, film, etc, or the person playing such a role
  1. the principal news story in a newspaperthe scandal was the lead in the papers
  2. the opening paragraph of a news story
  3. (as modifier)lead story
music an important entry assigned to one part usually at the beginning of a movement or section
a wire, cable, or other conductor for making an electrical connection
  1. one's habitual attacking punch
  2. a blow made with this
nautical the direction in which a rope runs
a deposit of metal or ore; lode
the firing of a gun, missile, etc, ahead of a moving target to correct for the time of flight of the projectile

Word Origin for lead

Old English lǣdan; related to līthan to travel, Old High German līdan to go




a heavy toxic bluish-white metallic element that is highly malleable: occurs principally as galena and used in alloys, accumulators, cable sheaths, paints, and as a radiation shield. Symbol: Pb; atomic no: 82; atomic wt: 207.2; valency: 2 or 4; relative density: 11.35; melting pt: 327.502°C; boiling pt: 1750°CRelated adjectives: plumbic, plumbeous, plumbous
a lead weight suspended on a line used to take soundings of the depth of water
swing the lead to malinger or make up excuses
lead weights or shot, as used in cartridges, fishing lines, etc
a thin grooved strip of lead for holding small panes of glass or pieces of stained glass
  1. thin sheets or strips of lead used as a roof covering
  2. a flat or low-pitched roof covered with such sheets
printing a thin strip of type metal used for spacing between lines of hot-metal typeCompare reglet (def. 2)
  1. graphite or a mixture containing graphite, clay, etc, used for drawing
  2. a thin stick of this material, esp the core of a pencil
(modifier) of, consisting of, relating to, or containing lead
go down like a lead balloon See balloon (def. 9)

verb (tr)

to fill or treat with lead
to surround, cover, or secure with lead or leads
printing to space (type) by use of leads
Derived Formsleadless, adjectiveleady, adjective

Word Origin for lead

Old English; related to Dutch lood, German Lot
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 get the lead out



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.



early 15c., "to make of lead," from lead (n.1). Meaning "to cover with lead" is from mid-15c. Related: Leaded (early 13c.); leading.



"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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

get the lead out in Science




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.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with get the lead out

get the lead out

Also, get the lead out of one's feet or pants. Hurry up, move faster. For example, Get the lead out of your pants, kids, or we'll be late, or, even more figuratively, Arthur is the slowest talker—he can't seem to get the lead out and make his point. This expression implies that lead, the heaviest of the base metals, is preventing one from moving. [Slang; first half of 1900s]


In addition to the idioms beginning with lead

  • lead a chase
  • lead a dog's life
  • lead a double life
  • lead by the nose
  • lead down the garden path
  • leading light
  • leading question
  • lead off
  • lead on
  • lead one to
  • lead the way
  • lead up the garden path
  • lead up to
  • lead with one's chin

also see:

  • all roads lead to Rome
  • blind leading the blind
  • get the lead out of
  • go over (like a lead balloon)
  • put lead in one's pencil
  • you can lead a horse to water
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.