Nearby words

  1. leachate,
  2. leaching,
  3. leachy,
  4. leacock,
  5. leacock, stephen butler,
  6. lead a chase,
  7. lead a dog's life,
  8. lead a double life,
  9. lead acetate,
  10. lead arsenate


Origin of lead

before 900; Middle English leden, Old English lǣdan (causative of līthan to go, travel); cognate with Dutch leiden, German leiten, Old Norse leitha

Synonym study

1. See guide.




Chemistry. a heavy, comparatively soft, malleable, bluish-gray metal, sometimes found in its natural state but usually combined as a sulfide, especially in galena. Symbol: Pb; atomic weight: 207.19; atomic number: 82; specific gravity: 11.34 at 20°C.
something made of this metal or of one of its alloys.
a plummet or mass of lead suspended by a line, as for taking soundings.
bullets collectively; shot.
black lead or graphite.
a small stick of graphite, as used in pencils.
Also leading. Printing. a thin strip of type metal or brass less than type-high, used for increasing the space between lines of type.
a grooved bar of lead or came in which sections of glass are set, as in stained-glass windows.
leads, British. a roof, especially one that is shallow or flat, covered with lead.

verb (used with object)

to cover, line, weight, treat, or impregnate with lead or one of its compounds.
Printing. to insert leads between the lines of.
to fix (window glass) in position with leads.


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

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

Examples from the Web for lead

British Dictionary definitions for lead



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 lead
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for lead




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 lead


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.