[leed-awf, -of]


leading off or beginning: the lead-off item on the agenda.

Origin of lead-off

First recorded in 1885–90; adj. use of verb phrase lead off



verb (used with object), led, lead·ing.

to go before or with to show the way; conduct or escort: to lead a group on a cross-country hike.
to conduct by holding and guiding: to lead a horse by a rope.
to influence or induce; cause: Subsequent events led him to reconsider his position.
to guide in direction, course, action, opinion, etc.; bring: You can lead her around to your point of view if you are persistent.
to conduct or bring (water, wire, etc.) in a particular course.
(of a road, passage, etc.) to serve to bring (a person) to a place: The first street on the left will lead you to Andrews Place.
to take or bring: The prisoners were led into the warden's office.
to command or direct (an army or other large organization): He led the Allied forces during the war.
to go at the head of or in advance of (a procession, list, body, etc.); proceed first in: The mayor will lead the parade.
to be superior to; have the advantage over: The first baseman leads his teammates in runs batted in.
to have top position or first place in: Iowa leads the nation in corn production.
to have the directing or principal part in: The minister will now lead us in prayer. He led a peace movement.
to act as leader of (an orchestra, band, etc.); conduct.
to go through or pass (time, life, etc.): to lead a full life.
Cards. to begin a round, game, etc., with (a card or suit specified).
to aim and fire a firearm or cannon ahead of (a moving target) in order to allow for the travel of the target while the bullet or shell is reaching it.
Football. to throw a lead pass to (an intended receiver): The quarterback led the left end.

verb (used without object), led, lead·ing.

to act as a guide; show the way: You lead and we'll follow.
to afford passage to a place: That path leads directly to the house.
to go first; be in advance: The band will lead and the troops will follow.
to result in; tend toward (usually followed by to): The incident led to his resignation. One remark often leads to another.
to take the directing or principal part.
to take the offensive: The contender led with a right to the body.
Cards. to make the first play.
to be led or submit to being led, as a horse: A properly trained horse will lead easily.
Baseball. (of a base runner) to leave a base before the delivery of a pitch in order to reach the next base more quickly (often followed by away).
lead back, to play (a card) from a suit that one's partner led.


the first or foremost place; position in advance of others: He took the lead in the race.
the extent of such an advance position: He had a lead of four lengths.
a person or thing that leads.
a leash.
a suggestion or piece of information that helps to direct or guide; tip; clue: I got a lead on a new job. The phone list provided some great sales leads.
a guide or indication of a road, course, method, etc., to follow.
precedence; example; leadership: They followed the lead of the capital in their fashions.
  1. the principal part in a play.
  2. the person who plays it.
  1. the act or right of playing first, as in a round.
  2. the card, suit, etc., so played.
  1. a short summary serving as an introduction to a news story, article, or other copy.
  2. the main and often most important news story.
Electricity. an often flexible and insulated single conductor, as a wire, used in connections between pieces of electric apparatus.
the act of taking the offensive.
  1. the direction of a rope, wire, or chain.
  2. Also called leader.any of various devices for guiding a running rope.
Naval Architecture. the distance between the center of lateral resistance and the center of effort of a sailing ship, usually expressed decimally as a fraction of the water-line length.
an open channel through a field of ice.
  1. a lode.
  2. an auriferous deposit in an old riverbed.
the act of aiming a gun ahead of a moving target.
the distance ahead of a moving target that a gun must be aimed in order to score a direct hit.
Baseball. an act or instance of leading.
Manège. (of a horse at a canter or gallop) the foreleg that consistently extends beyond and strikes the ground ahead of the other foreleg: The horse is cantering on the left lead.


most important; principal; leading; first: lead editorial; lead elephant; lead designer.
Football. (of a forward pass) thrown ahead of the intended receiver so as to allow him to catch it while running.
Baseball. (of a base runner) nearest to scoring: They forced the lead runner at third base on an attempted sacrifice.

Verb Phrases

lead off,
  1. to take the initiative; begin.
  2. Baseball.to be the first player in the batting order or the first batter in an inning.
lead on,
  1. to induce to follow an unwise course of action; mislead.
  2. to cause or encourage to believe something that is not true.
lead out,
  1. to make a beginning.
  2. to escort a partner to begin a dance: He led her out and they began a rumba.

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

Synonyms for lead

Synonym study

1. See guide.

Antonyms for lead

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

British Dictionary definitions for lead off

lead off

verb (adverb)

to initiate the action of (something); begin

noun lead-off

an initial move or action
a person or thing that begins something



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 off



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

lead off 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 lead off

lead off

Begin, start, go first. For example, We have a panel of three speakers, so will you lead off? [c. 1800]


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.