Definition of read in English:

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Pronunciation: /riːd/

verb (past and past participle read /rɛd/)

[with object]
1Look at and comprehend the meaning of (written or printed matter) by interpreting the characters or symbols of which it is composed: it’s the best novel I’ve ever read I never learned to read music Emily read over her notes [no object]: I’ll go to bed and read for a while
More example sentences
  • Still, since only the two of us ever read this stuff, it barely matters, does it?
  • In all of the books she had ever read the main character always had some sort of friend.
  • The nature of these disclosures, and the colorful language used, strongly support the belief that no one ever reads this material.
peruse, study, scrutinize, look through;
pore over, devour, be absorbed in, bury oneself in;
wade through, plough through;
run one's eye over, cast an eye over, leaf through, scan, glance through, flick through, skim through, thumb through, flip through, browse through, dip into
archaic con
decipher, make out, make sense of, interpret, understand, comprehend
1.1 [no object] Have the ability to look at and comprehend the meaning of written or printed matter: only three of the girls could read and none could write
More example sentences
  • There are still people leaving school without the ability to read or write.
  • The ability to read and write, an experience of debate: these are essential to democracy.
  • Most lose or never develop the ability to read and write in their native language.
1.2Speak (the written or printed matter that one is reading) aloud: I read the letter to her the charges against him were read out [no object]: I’ll read to you if you like
More example sentences
  • This time, Gerard and Kathleen caught up to us as I was reading the card aloud.
  • She was glad now that her History teacher humiliated her by taking that letter and reading it aloud to the class.
  • How about nobody sings, nobody recites, nobody reads aloud, nobody speaks or tap dances or whatever it is the great media event people are planning.
read out, read aloud, say aloud, recite, declaim
1.3Habitually read (a particular newspaper or periodical): now, I know what my reputation is—I read the papers
More example sentences
  • Ireland is no madder than England - as anyone who reads English tabloid newspapers will know.
  • In print advertising, you are looking at everybody who reads the magazine or newspaper.
  • He reads newspapers and law journals, and would like to improve Grahamstown's public amenities.
1.4 [no object, with complement] (Of a passage, text, or sign) have a certain wording: the placard read ‘We want justice’
More example sentences
  • On the right-hand side, stark text reads thus: ‘What, we ask, might this trigger economically?’
  • T-shirts are also available, the sign reads on.
  • The third floor sign reads: Floor 3: These men have highly paid jobs, love kids, are extremely good looking, and help with the housework.
1.5Used to indicate that a particular word in a text or passage is incorrect and that another should be substituted for it: for madam read madman
More example sentences
  • For Scholes at domestic level, read van der Vaart and others in the national team.
1.6 [no object] (read for) (Of an actor) audition for (a role): ring your agent and say you’ll read for the part
More example sentences
  • He said no - but as he was leaving the audition he was asked to read for a show.
  • The rest of the roles are filled by auditions of invited actors reading for specific parts and some by general auditions.
  • He has the uncanny ability to master the American accent which, along with his smile and look, helped set him apart from the other actors reading for the part.
2Discover (information) by reading it in a written or printed source: he was arrested yesterday—I read it in the paper [no object]: I read about the course in a magazine
More example sentences
  • It's appropriate to set the record straight so that anyone who read the information in your report knows the truth.
  • The question that came up for me reading your information about SARS has to do with numbers of cases.
  • It is not board level, because I have read in another submission there are no black women at board level.
2.1 (as adjective, with submodifier read) Having a specified level of knowledge as a result of reading: Ada was well read in French literature
More example sentences
  • People are quite well informed and well read in India and aware of everything.
  • I can see why he's both beloved amongst geeks and starting to become more widely read.
  • But Eagleton, one of the most widely read theorists alive, knows all this, so what does he mean?
2.2Discern (a fact, emotion, or quality) in someone’s eyes or expression: she looked down, terrified that he would read fear on her face
More example sentences
  • He had learned to read her moods and expressions well in the past year since they had married.
  • Gregory reached out subconsciously with his mind, reading her feelings of horror and fear.
  • She was reading his emotions, the ones that were bottled up inside without use.
3Understand or interpret the nature or significance of: he didn’t dare look away, in case this was read as a sign of weakness
More example sentences
  • The desert is an unforgiving place to those who cannot read its signs or understand its subtle warnings.
  • Jesus wants those who read the signs of nature to ponder the real signs of the times.
  • As such, the glories of nature can be read as harbingers of a future still arriving.
interpret, take, take to mean, construe, see, explain, understand
3.1 [no object, with adverbial] (Of a piece of writing) convey a specified impression to the reader: the brief note read like a cry for help
More example sentences
  • I may have had comics at the front of my brain when writing that and perhaps comics are a little behind in terms of artistic exploration, but a lot of the time such writing reads like a cop-out or just plain lazy.
  • At times the writing reads like a legal argument, at other times like a therapeutic recovery manual.
  • His writing reads like he's thinking aloud, calmly at your shoulder, always coming up with variations and tips.
4Inspect and record the figure indicated on (a measuring instrument): I’ve come to read the gas meter
More example sentences
  • The man is believed to have been operating in the area for some time and the victim of the assault had allowed him into her home in August to read her gas meter.
  • She says that the guy had come to read the gas meter earlier and the woman was not home.
  • The 73 year old victim let a man into her home who claimed he needed to read the gas meter but she did not ask for identification at this stage.
4.1 [no object, with complement] (Of a measuring instrument) indicate a specified measurement or figure: the thermometer read 0° C
More example sentences
  • The viral load measure can read as high as a million, depending on the limits of the lab test.
  • If the thermometer reads 98.6°F, then you don't have a fever and you can learn more about how heat makes other things expand.
  • Cook, stirring as little as possible, until the thermometer reads 300 F degrees.
indicate, register, record, display, show, have as a reading, measure
5chiefly British Study (an academic subject) at a university: I’m reading English at Cambridge [no object]: he went to Manchester to read for a BA in Economics
More example sentences
  • He then entered the University of Cambridge to read general studies before taking up physics.
  • Roberts went to university to read English and theatre studies, where her problem continued.
  • The former Leeds Girls High School pupil from Roundhay, is now reading Oriental Studies at Cambridge University.
study, do, take;
North American & Australian/New Zealand  major in
6(Of a computer) copy, transfer, or interpret (data): it attempts to read a floppy disk without regard to its format
More example sentences
  • Depending on what the charge inside is, the computer reads the memory cell as a ‘1’ or ‘0’.
  • If your computer is constantly reading from your hard disk, it's time to upgrade.
  • Computers read data tracks first, but the data track has to be located at the end of the CD.
6.1 [with object and adverbial] Enter or extract (data) in an electronic storage device: the commonest way of reading a file into the system
More example sentences
  • The DOM interface reads the entire XML file into memory and provides functions for traversing the XML hierarchy and retrieving the information.
  • I have written a basic Perl program that reads a list of URLs from a file, goes to the URL, looks for some information and then writes that information to another file.
  • It only works if you're already infected with an extractor that reads the code out of the images.
6.2(Of a device) obtain data from (light or other input): the microchip gives a unique code when read by the scanner
More example sentences
  • Simply press a button and a red laser reads the bar code of the desired item.
  • It registers the severity of the crash by reading the deceleration data from the airbag's sensor.
  • Make sure you are reading the light from the moon and not any near by street lights etc.
7Present (a bill or other measure) before a legislative assembly: the bill was accordingly read a second time
More example sentences
  • I move, That the Claims Settlement Bill be now read a second time.
  • I move, That the Wellington City Empowering and Amendment Bill be now read a second time.
  • A party vote was called for on the question, That the Aquaculture Reform Bill be now read a second time.
8Hear and understand the words of (someone speaking on a radio transmitter): ‘Do you read me? Over.’
More example sentences
  • Hello, Earth, Do You Read Me? How might the first intelligence from an extraterrestrial civilization be transmitted to earth?
  • Science fiction is not obsolete - do you read me?


[usually in singular] chiefly British
1A period or act of reading something: I was having a quiet read of the newspaper
More example sentences
  • I've removed names but take a read… it's good to see the boys are keeping their spirits up.
  • The book is thought provoking, sometimes challenging and well worth a read.
  • It won't make any difference to what I write, but hey, you might be fooled long enough to have a read.
perusal, study, scan, scrutiny;
look (at), browse (through), glance (through), leaf (through), flick (through), skim (through)
1.1 [with adjective] informal A book considered in terms of its readability: the book is a thoroughly entertaining read
More example sentences
  • Some books are okay reads after you have read everything else.
  • Fitzgerald is one of hurling's most likeable characters and the book is an entertaining read.
  • And not only were these books wonderful reads, but the author's heart was always in the right place, with a special sympathy for the misfits and the emotionally wounded.
1.2US A person’s interpretation of something: their read on the national situation may be correct
More example sentences
  • Tomorrow night, our Paula Zahn will try to get a read on the undecided voters in that state.
  • If we had inspectors in the country we could keep at least a limited read on what sort of progress he was making.
  • Tone and direction oscillate several times, making it hard to get a read on the series.



read between the lines

Look for or discover a meaning that is implied rather than explicitly stated: reading between the lines, I think Clare needs money
More example sentences
  • One rather gathers, reading between the lines, that he dismissed Piggy as a fool.
  • Even so, one must read between the lines to discover the full impact on her of the long joyless union with Thomas.
  • However, reading between the lines, one can discover criticism of army doctors and the army authorities in general, who above all wanted to maintain discipline and return soldiers to the battlefield.

read someone like a book

Understand someone’s thoughts and motives easily.
Example sentences
  • He is the only person who understands me and can read me like a book without having to turn to page one.
  • Some of those have crowed before that they can read me like a book, that they're great with people and can get to the root of any problem.
  • His mother - and she could read him like a book - had driven him to the barracks gates just seven hours earlier.

read someone's mind (or thoughts)

Discern what someone is thinking: he nodded, as though he could read her mind and approved of her attitude
More example sentences
  • Anyone claiming to be a mind reader has definitely not read my mind correctly on this one.
  • You think of a number, the computer reads your mind and guesses the number.
  • When I ask him what sparked his needle-picking mission, he reads my mind.

read my lips

North American informal Listen carefully (used to emphasize the importance of the speaker’s words): forget about him—read my lips, he wasn’t worth it
More example sentences
  • Mr. President, in all due respect, Mr. President, read my lips: Our vote is not for sale.
  • Where are the headlines that says, you know, read my lips, no more surplus?
  • Hey read my lips,’ I said pointing to myself, ‘Friends.’

take something as read

British Assume something without the need for further discussion: you can take it as read that you have the contract
More example sentences
  • The green issue should now be taken as read.
  • It should be taken as read that the software used is capable of finding and correctly identifying any viruses that you may have.

you wouldn't read about it

Australian /NZ informal Used to express incredulity, disgust, or ruefulness.
Example sentences
  • YOU wouldn't read about the problems this bumbling TV host has had settling into the job.
  • Beryl's had so many lives you wouldn't read about it.

Phrasal verbs


read something into

Attribute a meaning or significance to (something) that it may not in fact possess: was I reading too much into his behaviour?
More example sentences
  • Others were less gloomy, reading a cheering message into the fact that cricket was played at all.
  • It might be argued that it is far-fetched to read such significance into a political speech and a generalised endorsement of that by a linked organisation.
  • I think that too much fact can be read into fiction.
infer from, interpolate from, assume from, attribute to;
read between the lines, get hold of the wrong end of the stick

read someone out of

chiefly US Formally expel someone from (an organization): a lot of people got read out of the churches
With reference to the reading of the formal sentence of expulsion
More example sentences
  • You and everybody else were reading me out of this.
  • I am saying that younger Catholics continue to pack their faith on journeys to uncharted cultural and spiritual territories, and that we might wait before reading them out of the congregation.
  • Some African Americans treated him as badly as Islamic fundamentalists treated Salman Rushdie, pretty much calling him a traitor and a heretic and reading him out of the race.

read up on something (or read something up)

Acquire information about a particular subject by studying it intensively: she spent the time reading up on antenatal care
More example sentences
  • That's right, I was reading up on a study done there.
  • Before taking it, I insist on reading up on the subject.
  • What you need to do is to get in the right frame of mind by reading up on the subject.
study, get up
informal bone up on
British informal mug up on, swot
archaic con


Old English rǣdan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch raden and German raten 'advise, guess'. Early senses included 'advise' and 'interpret (a riddle or dream') (see rede).

  • Alfred the Great, king of Wessex between 871 and 899, did much to promote education in his kingdom, and the word read is first found in his writings. The word goes back to a Germanic root meaning ‘advise, guess, interpret’, and Old English riddle comes from the same root. The three Rs (early 19th century) have been ‘reading, (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic’, regarded as the fundamentals of elementary education. The expression is said to have originated as a toast proposed by the banker and politician Sir William Curtis (1752–1829). Read my lips was most famously used by the first President Bush in 1998. In making a campaign pledge not to raise taxes, he said ‘Read my lips: no new taxes.’ If you want to give someone a severe warning or reprimand, you may read the riot act to them. The Riot Act was passed by the British government in 1715 to prevent civil disorder in the wake of the Jacobite rebellion of that year. The Act made it an offence for a group of twelve or more people to refuse to disperse within an hour of being ordered to do so, after a magistrate had read a particular section of the Act to them. This created something of a problem, as reading legal language aloud is not the easiest thing to do in the middle of a genuine riot—and defendants might claim later that they had not heard the key words. The Act failed to prevent a number of major disturbances over the years, but was not repealed until 1967. Riot (Middle English) originally meant dissolute living and comes from an Old French word meaning ‘to quarrel’.

Words that rhyme with read

abed, ahead, bed, behead, Birkenhead, bled, bread, bred, coed, cred, crossbred, dead, dread, Ed, embed, Enzed, fed, fled, Fred, gainsaid, head, infrared, ked, lead, led, Med, misled, misread, Ned, outspread, premed, pure-bred, red, redd, said, samoyed, shed, shred, sked, sled, sped, Spithead, spread, stead, ted, thread, tread, underbred, underfed, wed accede, bead, Bede, bleed, breed, cede, concede, creed, deed, Eid, exceed, feed, Gide, God speed, greed, he'd, heed, impede, interbreed, intercede, Jamshid, knead, lead, mead, Mede, meed, misdeed, mislead, misread, need, plead, proceed, rede, reed, Reid, retrocede, screed, secede, seed, she'd, speed, stampede, steed, succeed, supersede, Swede, tweed, weak-kneed, we'd, weed

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: read

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