Definition of dress in English:

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Pronunciation: /drɛs/


1 [no object] Put on one’s clothes: Graham showered and dressed quickly I’ll go and get dressed
More example sentences
  • She showered quickly and then dressed into the same clothes once again, since they hadn't been dirtied since she put them on.
  • She continued talking as she dressed.
  • Jocelyn had just finished a rehearsal and was dressing to head home.
put on clothes, don clothes, slip into clothes, clothe oneself, get dressed
1.1 [with adverbial] Wear clothes in a particular way or of a particular type: she’s nice-looking and dresses well (be dressed) he was dressed in jeans and a thick sweater
More example sentences
  • ‘We have to do a do a couple of walks, one dressed in sports wear and one dressed in evening wear,’ he said.
  • Both Nicky and Georgina were dressed casually, with Nicky wearing jeans and a baseball cap while Georgina wore jeans and a floral top.
  • She doesn't dress flamboyantly, instead wearing a black t-shirt and jeans.
clothe, attire, garb, fit out, turn out, deck, deck out, trick out/up, costume, array, robe, accoutre
informal get up, doll up
literary bedizen
archaic apparel
1.2 [with object] Put clothes on (someone): they dressed her in a white hospital gown
More example sentences
  • Cathryn was not quite sure what to make of this for she could see no logical reason for dressing her in these clothes.
  • He dresses her in frilly clothes and surrounds her with stuffed animals and dolls.
  • I have to question the clothes my parents dressed me in back then.
1.3Put on clothes appropriate for a formal occasion: we dressed for dinner every night
More example sentences
  • Feeling like a character in a Nancy Mitford novel, I dressed for dinner and met my husband in the bar.
  • On the ship he played bingo, went to the shows, dressed for dinner, and maintained his silent decorum.
  • Gayle was getting dressed for dinner, when she heard Riann's voice.
wear formal clothes, put on evening dress, dress up;
change (one's clothes)
2 [with object] Decorate (something) in an artistic or attractive way: she’d enjoyed dressing the tree when the children were little
More example sentences
  • The friends hold their first tree dressing festival, with more than 150 children taking part.
  • Thereafter, Hopesay Parish Council has maintained the tree dressing custom, which is unique in Britain.
  • The wreck is dressed in beautiful soft corals of all colours.
decorate, adorn, ornament, trim, deck, bedeck, embellish, beautify, prettify, array, festoon, garland, rig, drape;
garnish, furbish, enhance, grace, enrich
informal trick out, tart up
literary furbelow
2.1Decorate (a ship) with flags for a special occasion.
Example sentences
  • Ships were dressed with flags and sailors climbed the rigging or stood on decks, caps in hand, to cheer the Queen.
  • Let us dress our ship as befits a brigand who shows her heels to the pursuers.
3 [with object] Treat or prepare (something) in a certain way, in particular:
3.1Clean, treat, or apply a dressing to (a wound): she washed the wound and dressed it with fresh bandages
More example sentences
  • The skin wound was dressed with gauze, and sterile plaster wool was applied.
  • The incision then was dressed with self-adhesive wound approximating strips.
  • I went to my general practitioner and had the wound dressed by a nurse at the surgery.
bandage, cover, bind (up), wrap, swaddle, swathe, plaster, put a plaster on
3.2Clean and prepare (food, especially poultry or shellfish) for cooking or eating: (as adjective dressed) dressed crab
More example sentences
  • The acidity of the soursop varies: the pulp of some fruits can be eaten raw, while others have to be dressed with sugar to make them palatable.
  • Anyway I was dressing a salmon… which quite obviously I have overpoached.
  • We chose to share a dressed crab with lemon dill mayonnaise.
prepare, get ready, make ready;
3.3Add a dressing to (a salad): dress the salad with vinaigrette
More example sentences
  • Mix equal parts low fat mayonnaise and yogurt and use to dress coleslaw or potato salad.
  • This vinaigrette is incredibly flexible - it can be used for dressing salads, glazing braised fish, or to marinate cooked potatoes.
  • Conversely potato salad should be dressed while hot, so that the cooling potatoes suck in the dressing.
3.4Apply a fertilizer to (an area of ground or a plant): the field was dressed with unrotted farmyard manure
More example sentences
  • Feed your plants by side dressing with a vegetable fertilizer same as you would in the spring.
  • At the correct times the ground about the trees was dressed with sea-sand manure.
  • Grass staggers is brought about by a diet that is too high in protein, a condition found in rapidly growing pasture, especially on ground that has been heavily dressed with fertilizer.
fertilize, add fertilizer to, feed, enrich, manure, mulch, compost, top-dress
3.5Complete the preparation or manufacture of (leather or fabric) by treating its surface in some way: leather that had been dressed with alum
More example sentences
  • Officers complained that it was extremely difficult to keep the full dress uniform presentable, since the lace dirtied the white cloth, and the brimstone used to dress the cloth damaged the lace.
3.6Smooth the surface of (stone): (as adjective dressed) dressed Cotswold stone
More example sentences
  • Every stone has to be dressed, which means that for every week of building with stone, it takes two days to prepare the stone.
  • Stone was dressed in different ways as time and technology advanced.
  • On the exterior walls, 240 dressed and corner stones had to be redone and the top floor needed to be completely replaced.
smooth, polish, gloss, level, face
3.7Arrange or style (hair): Patrick dressed Michelle’s hair in a sculptured, Japanese-type style
More example sentences
  • Her hair was styled and dressed and her make-up was carefully applied.
  • Carved wooden Akan combs were used to both dress the hair and ornament it.
  • For these women it was customary to apply cosmetics and to dress their hair in the morning.
style, groom, arrange, comb, brush, do, put in order, straighten, adjust, preen, primp
informal fix
4 [with object] Military Draw up (troops) in the proper alignment.
Example sentences
  • There was no time to dress ranks properly, and unit organization went by the board as the troopers struggled to form front.
  • The battalion dressed its ranks with precision.
  • The halberds of infantry sergeants were carried as a symbol of their authority and used to dress the ranks.
line up, put in line, align, straighten, arrange, put into order, dispose, set out, get into rows/columns;
fall in
4.1 [no object] (Of troops) come into proper alignment.
Example sentences
  • Soldiers dress by one another in ranks, and the body collectively by some given object.
5(Of a man) have the genitals habitually on one or the other side of the fork of the trousers: do you dress to the left?
More example sentences
  • His periscope legs are wrapped in trousers sufficiently tight for any prospective tailors to note that he dresses to the left.
  • Unless this generation is particularly sensitive, it doesn't explain why in the sixties and seventies we all walked around in jeans so tight that questions about dressing to the right or left would have been unnecessary.
6 [with object] Make (an artificial fly) for use in fishing: (as adjective dressed) a dressed wet fly
More example sentences
  • More recently I used some big cane salmon fly rods to throw impressive fully dressed flies on the Tweed.
  • Necessities for stream angling encompass the occasional use of smaller 8ft to 10 ft rods, lighter DT floating lines, and lighter dressed flies.


1A one-piece garment for a woman or girl that covers the body and extends down over the legs: a white cotton dress [as modifier]: a dress designer
More example sentences
  • She also hit the mark with her black silk flower print strapless dresses with their asymmetrical handkerchief hemlines.
  • All the dresses and garments were well made, but I just can't see the theme of this collection.
  • This just shows white dresses don't have to be boring and can vary a lot.
frock, gown, robe, shift
2 [mass noun] Clothing of a specified kind for men or women: traditional African dress
More example sentences
  • He was in a business suit instead of formal dress or traditional formal wear consisting of a crested kimono and pleated skirt.
  • His favorite mode of dress is that of a pirate.
  • I could do nothing but smile at her manner of dress - outrageous as it was.
clothes, clothing, garments, attire, costume, outfit, ensemble, garb, turnout;
finery, regalia
informal gear, get-up, togs, duds, garms, glad rags, schmutter
British informal clobber, kit, rig-out
North American informal threads
formal apparel, habiliment, raiment
archaic vestments
2.1 [as modifier] Denoting military uniform or other clothing used on formal or ceremonial occasions: a dress suit
More example sentences
  • When we were all called together again for a meeting, I saw that both Decker and Dev were in ceremonial dress military uniforms.
  • The government men stepped off, in military dress uniforms, each with a large group of ribbons on the left chest over the olive drab fabric.
  • He came out dressed in a sort of military dress uniform, complete with tight shiny pants and a cap decorated with the iron cross.



dressed overall

(Of a ship) decorated with a continuous line of flags from bow to stern: the marina was crammed full of yachts dressed overall
More example sentences
  • While in port the ship was dressed overall, along with other vessels, to mark the national celebrations and to meet up again with colleagues from the Royal Canadian Navy.
  • Beyond hosting various media events while in Southampton, the ship will be open to visitors throughout the boat show and be dressed overall for the duration.
  • The most eye-catching exhibit - apart from Northumberland, dressed overall - was the amphibious car, a £150,000 vehicle which regularly hurtled past the frigate's berth.

dressed to kill

Wearing glamorous clothes intended to create a striking impression.
Example sentences
  • Then Sally emerged, dressed to kill - in skin tight black leggings, black thigh length PVC stiletto boots, and an outrageous Puffa jacket.
  • A fanatical Manchester United supporter, Brian said: ‘I usually just wear jeans and a t-shirt but today I'm dressed to kill.’
  • Along comes this beautiful, educated, overbearingly skinny girl, dressed to kill in cotton candy pink, with teeth whiter than snow, a brand new Audi and daddy's money in her pocket.

Phrasal verbs


dress down

Dress informally: Sue dressed down in old jeans and a white blouse
More example sentences
  • The same juvenile impulse that once inspired liberals to dress down as slobs now inspires them to assume the role of high school snobs.
  • Shooting one scene involved Terri - a girl whose idea of dressing down is four-inch heels and a plunging neckline - taking a tottering walk down the street.
  • Even if more companies are dressing down, I prefer to savour some things for my days off.
dress informally, dress casually, be untidy
informal slob around

dress someone down

informal Reprimand someone: the president dressed down the media at the news conference
More example sentences
  • Phillip is dressed down by his mother for thinking being smart is the same thing as being wise.
  • Where is the statement dressing her down, or better still sacking her?
  • My son-in-law completely dressed me down, said I must apologise and threw a glass of water in my face.

dress up

Dress in smart or formal clothes.
Example sentences
  • I'm going at 2.30, which gives me much time to kill, and me all dressed up in smart clothes too.
  • Indian women seem to have it easy when it comes to dressing up for formal functions and special occasions.
  • Groups of girls dressed up in their best clothes and jewellery looked on approvingly at these displays of horsemanship.
dress smartly, dress formally, wear evening dress
informal doll oneself up, dress to the nines, put on one's glad rags
3.1Dress in a special costume for fun or as part of an entertainment: he dressed up as a gorilla
More example sentences
  • At Halloween, the other kids would dress up in superhero costumes to go trick or treating.
  • This was the only blip in the whole day which had seen many locals dressing up in period costume, strolling around in the Summer heat.
  • Market traders and shop assistants add to the atmosphere by dressing up in period costumes.
disguise oneself, dress;
put on fancy dress, wear a costume, put on a disguise, wear disguise

dress something up

Present something in such a way that it appears better than it really is: the company dressed up the figures a little
More example sentences
  • Dear reader, I ask you: does pulling out these facts and figures and dressing them up with rhetoric consciously influence your vote in the slightest?
  • However they choose to dress it up and whatever sort of compromise they want to present it as, the president's goal is still phase-out.
  • It's made up of all sorts of bits and pieces that no one would otherwise touch, but he's packaged it well and dressed it up with his trademark buffoonery.
present, represent, portray, depict, characterize;
embellish, enhance, touch up, embroider, gloss, adorn;
ginger up
informal jazz up


Middle English (in the sense 'put straight'): from Old French dresser 'arrange, prepare', based on Latin directus 'direct, straight'.

Words that rhyme with dress

acquiesce, address, assess, Bess, bless, bouillabaisse, caress, cess, chess, coalesce, compress, confess, convalesce, cress, deliquesce, digress, duchesse, duress, effervesce, effloresce, evanesce, excess, express, fess, finesse, fluoresce, guess, Hesse, impress, incandesce, intumesce, jess, largesse, less, manageress, mess, ness, noblesse, obsess, oppress, outguess, phosphoresce, politesse, possess, press, priestess, princess, process, profess, progress, prophetess, regress, retrogress, stress, success, suppress, tendresse, top-dress, transgress, tress, tristesse, underdress, vicomtesse, yes

For editors and proofreaders

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