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verb (used without object), wad·ed, wad·ing.
  1. to walk in water, when partially immersed: He wasn't swimming, he was wading.
  2. to play in water: The children were wading in the pool most of the afternoon.
  3. to walk through water, snow, sand, or any other substance that impedes free motion or offers resistance to movement: to wade through the mud.
  4. to make one's way slowly or laboriously (often followed by through): to wade through a dull book.
  5. Obsolete. to go or proceed.
verb (used with object), wad·ed, wad·ing.
  1. to pass through or cross by wading; ford: to wade a stream.
  1. an act or instance of wading: We went for a wade in the shallows.
Verb Phrases
  1. wade in/into,
    1. to begin energetically.
    2. to attack strongly: to wade into a thoughtless child; to wade into a mob of rioters.

Origin of wade

before 900; Middle English waden to go, wade, Old English wadan to go; cognate with German waten, Old Norse vatha; akin to Old English wæd ford, sea, Latin vadum shoal, ford, vādere to go, rush
Related formsun·wad·ed, adjectiveun·wad·ing, adjective

Synonyms for wade

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for wade in


  1. to walk with the feet immersed in (water, a stream, etc)the girls waded the river at the ford
  2. (intr often foll by through) to proceed with difficultyto wade through a book
  3. (intr; foll by in or into) to attack energetically
  1. the act or an instance of wading
Derived Formswadable or wadeable, adjective

Word Origin for wade

Old English wadan; related to Old Frisian wada, Old High German watan, Old Norse vatha, Latin vadum ford


  1. (Sarah) Virginia. born 1945, English tennis player; won three Grand Slam singles titles: US Open (1968), Australian Open (1972), and Wimbledon (1977)
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 wade in



Old English wadan "to go forward, proceed," in poetic use only, except as oferwaden "wade across," from Proto-Germanic *wadan (cf. Old Norse vaða, Danish vade, Old Frisian wada, Dutch waden, Old High German watan, German waten "to wade"), from PIE root *wadh- "to go," found only in Germanic and Latin (cf. Latin vadere "to go," vadum "shoal, ford," vadare "to wade"). Italian guado, French gué "ford" are Germanic loan-words.

Specifically of walking into water from c.1200. Originally a strong verb (past tense wod, past participle wad); weak since 16c. Figurative sense of "to go into" (action, battle, etc.) is recorded from late 14c. Related: Waded; wading.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with wade in

wade in

Also, wade into. Plunge into, begin or attack resolutely and energetically, as in She waded into that pile of correspondence. This idiom transfers entering water to beginning some action. [Mid-1800s]

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