Definition of dead in English:

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Pronunciation: /ded/


1No longer alive: a dead body [as complement]: he was shot dead
More example sentences
  • The driver didn't know whether the person he hit was dead or alive.
  • We waited what seemed an eternity not knowing if she would come back dead or alive.
  • An ambulance was called but the boy was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.
passed on/away, expired, departed, gone, no more;
late, lost, lamented;
perished, fallen, slain, slaughtered, killed, murdered;
lifeless, extinct
informal (as) dead as a doornail, six feet under, pushing up daisies
formal deceased
euphemistic with God, asleep
1.1(Of a part of the body) having lost sensation; numb.
Example sentences
  • She said that her left leg had gone dead and that she had fallen out of bed.
  • Have you ever woken up with a dead arm?
  • His foot is dead and they need to operate immediately to save what's left of his leg.
numb, numbed, deadened, desensitized, unfeeling;
paralyzed, crippled, incapacitated, immobilized, frozen
1.2Having or displaying no emotion, sympathy, or sensitivity: a cold, dead voice
More example sentences
  • The grin was gone, and his voice had gone so emotionally dead that it was almost frightening.
  • When a woman's voice from a car alongside him calls his name, his face is emotionless, blank, dead.
  • A person who has always been truly alone is one who will be emotionally dead.
emotionless, unemotional, unfeeling, impassive, unresponsive, indifferent, dispassionate, inexpressive, wooden, stony, cold;
deadpan, flat;
blank, vacant
1.3No longer current, relevant, or important: pollution had become a dead issue
More example sentences
  • He thought that it was a dead issue, he had dealt with that.
  • Now that the Eastern Corridor is a dead issue, dramatic action needs to be taken to address the transport woes in the region.
  • In any case, unless there's some clear photo from tonight, I think this issue may be dead.
obsolete, extinct, defunct, disused, abandoned, discarded, superseded, vanished, forgotten;
archaic, antiquated, ancient
literary of yore
1.4Devoid of living things: a dead planet
More example sentences
  • It was pointed out at the meeting that any area devoid of people is dead.
  • As the rather clichéd but very true saying goes, there are no jobs on a dead planet.
  • The land is dead, its animals gone, its cities covered in ash, most of its people killed by violence or disease.
extinguished, quashed, stifled;
finished, over, gone, no more;
a thing of the past, ancient history
1.5Resembling death: a dead faint
More example sentences
  • A nurse announced the time of death and Carly fell to the floor in a dead faint.
  • He gave a loud, startling, heart-wrenching cry and fell backwards in a dead faint.
  • She sank to the floor in a dead faint and I picked the small, fragile woman up and went into the cozy little house.
1.6(Of a place or time) characterized by a lack of activity or excitement: Brussels isn’t dead after dark, if you know where to look
More example sentences
  • But you can always count on some activity even mid week where other places are dead.
  • Turned out the place was dead, hardly worth turning up for.
  • Got sent home early since the place was dead, a nice change to actually get the last bus.
uneventful, uninteresting, unexciting, uninspiring, dull, boring, flat, quiet, sleepy, slow, lackluster, lifeless
informal one-horse, dullsville
1.7(Of money) not financially productive.
Example sentences
  • Many economists regard defence outlays as dead money, money that produces nothing of measurable value.
  • Renting in Swindon is quite expensive and it's dead money really but I'd rather compromise on that and see the world instead.
  • Start a pension scheme and try to get on the property ladder as quickly as possible, as rent is dead money.
1.8(Of sound) without resonance; dull.
Example sentences
  • However over-ripe melons make that same dead sound, so this isn't the most reliable test.
  • To locate dry rot, tap questionable areas with a hammer and listen for a hollow, dead sound.
  • I let the bag drop with a dead thud to the floor.
1.9(Of a color) not glossy or bright.
Example sentences
  • The flats were dead black in contrast to the polished edges, almost seeming to draw the light in.
  • Students tinted the surface ground with a dead color, like brownish-green.
  • They were both, I found from careful measurements, of precisely the same dimensions and surface area, and each presented the same dull dead black surface.
1.10(Of a piece of equipment) no longer functioning, especially because of a fault: the phone had gone dead
More example sentences
  • Before Kat could respond, the line went dead and the faint beeping of the phone began to bother her.
  • The television was dead and would not respond at all.
  • Don't sign any software agreement until you have read the fine print carefully, otherwise you could one day find yourself with a very dead computer.
not working, out of order, inoperative, inactive, in disrepair, broken, malfunctioning, defective
informal kaput, conked out, on the blink, on the fritz, bust, busted
1.11(Of an electric circuit or conductor) carrying or transmitting no current: the batteries are dead
More example sentences
  • You can create closed loops and boxes without short circuits by using dead connectors.
  • Moving the crossbeam was the most desirable option, and the power lines appeared dead.
  • I came back last week from a spell in Istanbul to discover that the power in my flat was dead.
1.12No longer burning: the fire had been dead for some days
More example sentences
  • Jim stepped away from the cold embers of the dead fire and walked into the jungle.
  • But the next day, the fire was dead. With no one to feed it, it went out while men were sleeping.
  • When she arrived at his house he wasn't there - the fire in the hearth was dead and he'd gone off into the bush.
1.13(Of air or water) not circulating; stagnant.
Example sentences
  • When the current slackened, and there was dead water, with no movement at all for a few minutes at high tide, these fish would swim on the surface with dorsal and tail fins right out of the water.
  • What I'd mistaken for a living stream just has in it fish that thrive in dead water.
  • I returned to my musky motel room where the air was dead and I had been breathing other people's sweat.
1.14(Of a glass or bottle) empty or no longer being used.
Example sentences
  • After being served our desert we had to call a waiter to clear all the dead glasses away.
  • The place is covered in empty pizza boxes, dead bottles of booze and cigarette butts.
1.15(Of the ball in a game) out of play. See also dead ball.
Example sentences
  • If an umpire is struck by a batted ball in that position, the ball is dead.
  • Keep in mind that on such plays the ball is not dead and the batter-runner may try for four bases at his own risk if he chooses.
  • But a decision about an actual goal being scored when the ball is dead ought to be checked if there is any doubt in the ref's mind or even if there's not.
1.16(Of a playing field, ball, or other surface) lacking springiness or bounce.
Example sentences
  • I'm not criticising anyone but it's just a dead surface and there's no response from it.
  • But after last night's rain I knew the ground would be on the dead side and if he didn't fall he'd have a chance.
  • He demonstrated that even on dead pitches a degree of aggression can bring dividends.
2 [attributive] Complete; absolute: we sat in dead silence
More example sentences
  • There was about half a minute of total dead silence before she could manage any words.
  • Since disaster struck the students have been making frantic phone calls only to be greeted by dead silence.
  • And if you can hold eight hundred people in dead silence and hear a pin drop you know something's going right.
complete, absolute, total, utter, out-and-out, thorough, unmitigated


[often as submodifier]
1Absolutely; completely: you’re dead right he was dead against the idea
More example sentences
  • John's description of it is both unusually amusing and absolutely dead accurate.
  • Businessman John Walker is dead certain his funeral will go to plan.
  • I am dead certain we have the talent needed for winning in the Olympic games.
completely, absolutely, totally, utterly, deadly, perfectly, entirely, quite, thoroughly;
definitely, certainly, positively, categorically, unquestionably, undoubtedly, surely;
in every way, one hundred percent
1.1Exactly: they arrived dead on time
More example sentences
  • I promise I will fire at least twelve shots, and that at least nine will be dead on target.
  • Many DJ's finish dead on midnight, we on the other hand continue to play if the night is still swinging.
  • We got there at dead on 6: 30, and there were plenty of people who arrived even later.
1.2Straight; directly: red flares were seen dead ahead
More example sentences
  • She spotted the Lich Tower dead ahead, and figured it had to be just another mile's walk.
  • One lay dead ahead in a section all by itself, and she guessed that it probably belonged to Cal.
  • There was a ninety-degree turn to the left, and a street sign dead ahead.
directly, exactly, precisely, immediately, right, straight, due, squarely
informal smack dab
1.3British informal Very: omelets are dead easy to prepare
More example sentences
  • It's been a dead easy week, radio-wise - just like having your own PR company working for you.
  • And the story of her and Bob at the VW Bus weekend was dead funny too, especially when she acted out the parts of some of the people she met!
  • It sounds dead good and I fancy having a go.


(as plural noun the dead)
Those who have died.
Example sentences
  • We honor our war dead today for the sacrifice they made for us and for our freedoms.
  • Honoring the war dead, of course, is a natural act of mourning.
  • It's important relatives of the dead are allowed to think of their loved ones in tranquil surroundings.



dead and buried

Over; finished: the incident is dead and buried
More example sentences
  • How will this ancient struggle, which liberal theorists once thought dead and buried, end?
  • Are those plans still alive or they are dead and buried?
  • With fourteen minutes to play in normal time they looked dead and buried as they trailed by 3-1.

(as) dead as a (or the) dodo

see dodo.

(as) dead as a doornail


dead from the neck up

informal Stupid.
Example sentences
  • Not all the students were dead from the neck up.
  • My dear fellow, I may be dead from the neck up, but rack my brains as I may I can't see why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.
  • Any person who maintains the same attitudes over a twenty-year period is probably dead from the neck up.

dead in the water

(Of a ship) unable to move.
Example sentences
  • Although the crew managed to restart the engines in the middle of the night, when rescuing ships arrived she was still dead in the water, her engine room was flooding and she was rolling heavily.
  • Communications were established and the aircraft reported the vessel dead in the water with six people on board.
  • Two hundred feet below the surface the ship sat dead in the water, not moving.
5.1Unable to function effectively: the economy is dead in the water
More example sentences
  • The bad-debt fallout and other effects of this collapse have left the once-dynamic economy dead in the water.
  • If we don't put forward some options, we'll be dead in the water.
  • We know we have to keep on top of late payments, that cash is the lifeblood of our company and that if we didn't collect, we'd be dead in the water.

dead meat

informal In serious trouble: if anyone finds out, you’re dead meat
More example sentences
  • ‘If they don't even bother having drills,’ she said, ‘that means that once someone attacks us with nuclear weapons, we are dead meat.’
  • I mean, the first time I walked out on a nightclub floor, I was terrified, absolutely terrified, but you can't ever let them know you're scared because, if you let them know you're scared, you're dead meat.
  • Look, all I'm trying to say is, you are dead meat.

the dead of night

The quietest, darkest part of the night.
Example sentences
  • Ever wondered why the cat is so particular about settling territorial disputes in the dead of night when everyone is asleep?
  • He stole into the abbey in the dead of night, intent on stealing a personal memento of Scotland's greatest king.
  • He was eventually released 25 miles away in a quiet country lane in Northwich, Cheshire, in the dead of night.

the dead of winter

The coldest part of winter.
Example sentences
  • Since burials could not be performed in the dead of winter, gravestone orders were probably not placed during the winter, creating a seasonal decline in income that had to be filled by other work, such as smithing.
  • I took two trips to Russia in the dead of winter.
  • In the dead of winter, he'll cross between Alaska and Russia via the frozen Bering Strait, perhaps braving temperatures of 80 degrees below zero.

dead on

Exactly right: her judgment was dead on
More example sentences
  • Can everyone please pay attention to the list-ridden post below, because apparently it's dead on.
  • Seriously though, this was so dead on that I decided to read the horoscopes of people I know.
  • I think that he's dead on as far as the differences between the two countries goes.

dead on arrival

Used to describe a person who is declared dead immediately upon arrival at a hospital.
Example sentences
  • The inquest heard she was found hanging by a plastic shower curtain in her cell and was declared dead on arrival at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield.
  • He was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.
  • The victim, who had been in and out of the Philippines and owned a bar and restaurant in Manila, was declared dead on arrival at a Manila hospital.
10.1(Of an idea, etc.) declared ineffective without ever having been put into effect: why are people pronouncing the plan dead on arrival in the legislature?
More example sentences
  • Democrats - and many Republicans, too - see that idea as dead on arrival.
  • If he is right, the plan will be dead on arrival in the Senate.
  • When the prototypes of the new gun debuted in 2003, 90 percent of gunwriters pronounced it dead on arrival.

dead on one's feet

informal Extremely tired.
Example sentences
  • I can't seem to get into bed unless I am exhausted and dead on my feet.
  • She was obviously dead on her feet she was so tired, and just staying awake for me.
  • I know that at the end of term they are dead on their feet.

dead set against

informal Strongly opposed to: they were dead set against seeing any more open spaces divided up
More example sentences
  • Anyway, before you can have a female Pope you must first provide for the ordination of women to the priesthood, and the present Pope is dead set against that.
  • But are conservatives, and nonliberals generally, really dead set against popular culture?
  • If members of the public knew that every contribution they made to charity is taxed, they would not be pleased at all, but the three main parties seem reluctant to tell people, and they seem dead set against taking it away.

dead to rights

informal In the act of doing something wrong; red-handed: he had me dead to rights, so I meekly suffered the rebuke
More example sentences
  • When he was brought to trial the prosecution, who had him dead to rights, encountered a lot of community support for what he'd done.
  • He has just been caught dead to rights having multiple affairs.
  • It's an element of any good scandal that the culprit be caught dead to rights.

dead to the world

informal Fast asleep.
Example sentences
  • I turn my back for a moment, and when I return, Terry is lying on the floor of the van in the foetal position, motionless and silent, dead to the world.
  • For the hundredth time, she glances over to the bed, where Frank has been lying in a medicated sleep, dead to the world.
  • Those pills work fast; he'll be dead to the world in under ten minutes.

from the dead

From a state of death: Christ rose from the dead
More example sentences
  • Then, on the third day he was resurrected from the dead, conquering death and opening the way into heaven.
  • As a Christian, I believe that God is love and that in love He died and rose from the dead so that I might have eternal life.
  • It is believed that Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the dead in this place.
15.1From a period of obscurity or inactivity: the cartoon brought animation back from the dead
More example sentences
  • The task now facing the 2005 candidates is bringing the party back from the dead.
  • The staunch York City supporter today launched a double plan aimed at bringing the club back from the dead.
  • He believes he has brought his party back from the dead and ready for government.

make a dead set at

see set2.

more dead than alive

(Of a person) hurt and in a very poor state: he was breathing, but more dead than alive
More example sentences
  • You were carried out of here only yesterday, more dead than alive.
  • According to the Tuscan Ambassador, Galileo returned from Rome " more dead than alive ".
  • At this time, Ulysses is dumped on Ithaca's shore, more dead than alive.

over my dead body

see body.

stop dead

(or stop someone dead)
Stop (or cause to stop) suddenly or abruptly: Rob stopped dead and turned to face me the sight stopped him dead in his tracks

wouldn't be seen (or caught) dead

informal Used to express strong dislike for a particular thing: James Bond wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a paper napkin bib
More example sentences
  • Trinny wouldn't be seen dead in what I'm wearing.
  • I asked half a dozen young men who work in my office and each of them gasped,’ I wouldn't be caught dead in that’.
  • Everyone else might be much more dressed up than you are, or wearing clothes you wouldn't be caught dead in.



Pronunciation: /ˈdednəs/
Example sentences
  • Survivors frequently complain of chronic depression and an inner deadness, unable to experience lasting pleasure or excitement.
  • I saw the deadness in kids' eyes become an amazing sparkle.
  • His last thought before the sweet deadness of sleep overcame him was that he had to be rescued quickly or else not at all.


Old English dēad, of Germanic origin: related to Dutch dood and German tot, also to die1.

  • Dead is related to Dutch dood and German Tod ‘death’, and to death itself. Their shared ancestor is the origin of die. Often it is not enough to be dead: someone must be as dead as a doornail or as a dodo. The comparison with the extinct dodo is understandable enough, but it is not clear why doornails are particularly associated with death. A doornail was one of the large iron studs that were once used on doors to give additional strength or simply for decoration. It may also have been the large stud struck by the knocker, which, subject to constant pounding, could be considered well and truly dead. The phrase goes back to the Middle Ages and was used by Shakespeare, in whose time a person could also be as dead as a herring. Death has prompted many reflections on the human condition. The Roman poet Claudian wrote omnia mors aequat, ‘death levels all’—in English death is the great leveller. Shakespeare's The Tempest contains the line ‘He that dies pays all debts’, a thought that had become death pays all debts by the time of the novelist Sir Walter Scott. That nothing is certain but death and taxes has been a view since the early 18th century. The original deadline (mid 19th century) was a line drawn around a military prison, beyond which any prisoner was liable to be shot. It is first mentioned in a document of the 1860s.

Words that rhyme with dead

abed, ahead, bed, behead, Birkenhead, bled, bread, bred, coed, cred, crossbred, dread, Ed, embed, Enzed, fed, fled, Fred, gainsaid, head, infrared, ked, lead, led, Med, misled, misread, Ned, outspread, premed, pure-bred, read, red, redd, said, samoyed, shed, shred, sked, sled, sped, Spithead, spread, stead, ted, thread, tread, underbred, underfed, wed

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: dead

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