There are 2 main definitions of lead in English:

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lead 1

Pronunciation: /liːd/

verb (past and past participle led /lɛd/)

[with object]
1Cause (a person or animal) to go with one by holding them by the hand, a halter, a rope, etc. while moving forward: she emerged leading a bay horse
More example sentences
  • She pulled the horse to a halt, and led him by the rope.
  • He led her with a rope tied around her hands.
  • You can also attach a lead rope to him and lead him around with you as you clean.
guide, conduct, show, show someone the way, lead the way, usher, escort, steer, pilot, marshal, shepherd;
1.1 [with object and adverbial of direction] Show (someone or something) the way to a destination by going in front of or beside them: she stood up and led her friend to the door
More example sentences
  • He led them to the front gate and used the keycard to open the door.
  • Brady walked in front of them and led them towards the cabin.
  • She led them to the front desk, where an old man with graying hair sat reading an old newspaper.
be at the head of, be at the front of, head, spearhead
2 [no object, with adverbial of direction] (usually lead to) Be a route or means of access to a particular place or in a particular direction: the door led to a better-lit corridor a farm track led off to the left
More example sentences
  • Two sets of double doors lead to a spacious conservatory from where double doors lead out to the lawned back garden.
  • ‘The routes leading into Leeds from this part of the city are already seriously overcrowded,’ he added.
  • A gate has been padlocked on an access road leading down to one beach to prevent vehicles getting too close.
open on to, give on to, connect with/to, provide a route to, communicate with
2.1 [with object] Be a reason or motive for (someone): nothing that I have read about the case leads me to the conclusion that anything untoward happened [with object and infinitive]: a fascination for art led him to start a collection of paintings
More example sentences
  • In the rest of this article, we discuss the ideas and reasoning that led us to our final decision.
  • Omar's reflections on his wife's motives lead him to contemplate his own life.
  • When did the idea for the game first arise, and what were the key reasons that led you to decide to go ahead and develop it?
2.2 [no object] Culminate or result in (a particular event or consequence): closing the plant will lead to 300 job losses fashioning a policy appropriate to the situation entails understanding the forces that led up to it
More example sentences
  • Exciting results from early small trials led on to several large studies of low dose aspirin.
  • The events of that day have led on to a war.
  • Anyway, this then led on to a discussion of the hymns - well, songs, really - which we had to sing in primary assembly.
result in, cause, bring on, bring about, call forth, give rise to, be the cause of, make happen, create, produce, occasion, effect, engender, generate, contribute to, be conducive to, add to, be instrumental in, have a hand in, have a part in, help, promote, advance;
precipitate, hasten, accelerate, quicken, push forward, prompt, expedite, further, speed up;
provoke, stir up, spark off, trigger (off), set off, touch off, arouse, rouse, excite, foment, instigate;
cost, involve, necessitate, invite, risk, elicit, entail
3Be in charge or command of: a military delegation was led by the Chief of Staff
More example sentences
  • Relieved of command, he led IX Corps for much of the rest of the war.
  • Firm in our resolve, focused on our mission, and led by a superb commander in chief, we will prevail.
  • He led an official Chinese delegation, which visited the northern Black Sea resorts over the weekend.
be the leader of, be the head of, preside over, hold sway over, head;
command, direct, govern, rule, be in charge of, be in command of, be in control of, have control of, have charge of, regulate, supervise, superintend, oversee, chair, run, mastermind, orchestrate, control, conduct, guide, be at the helm of, take the chair of;
administer, organize, manage;
dominate, master, reign over, domineer, be in power over
3.1Organize and direct: the conference included sessions led by people with personal knowledge of the area
More example sentences
  • The session was organised and led by the Community Librarian for Warminster.
  • On Saturday morning there was a meditation followed by a session on healing led by a psychotherapist.
  • She had led a £100m management buyout just one year previously.
3.2Be the principal player of (a group of musicians): since the forties he has led his own big bands
More example sentences
  • The musicians were members of the Scottish Symphony Orchestra, led by violinist Robert McFall.
  • Hutchinson, a singer and musician who once led the Straight Ahead Jazz ensemble, does vocals on the disc.
  • The group has a wide repertoire and is led by Carol Green, a music teacher, choir trainer and flautist.
3.3Set (a process) in motion: they are waiting for an expansion of world trade to lead a recovery
More example sentences
  • Hungary, Poland and Slovenia may well lead an accelerating regional recovery process.
  • Even in Japan, the recent recovery was almost entirely led by exports.
  • The current phase of recovery has been led by consumption rather than by investments.
3.4 [no object] (lead (off) with) Begin a report or text with a particular item: the radio news led with the murder
More example sentences
  • My parents may watch a lot of television, but they don't care for the local news leading off with murders.
  • Two weeks ago, Stewart led off with a news story from CNN.
  • For a change, we decided this week to lead off with Good News.
begin, start, start off, open, get going
informal kick off
formal commence
3.5 [no object] (lead with) Boxing Make an attack with (a particular punch or fist): Adam led with a left
More example sentences
  • He charged the man on the left, leading with his right fist and smashing it into the man's jaw dropping him to the floor.
  • In the middle rounds, Calderon also began to mix a right hook into his offensive game plan, both punctuating combinations and leading with this rediscovered weapon.
  • He led with a wild flurry of punches, but they were blocked effortlessly.
3.6(In card games) play (the first card) in a trick or round of play: he led the ace and another heart [no object]: it’s your turn to lead
More example sentences
  • These games also have strong restrictions on the cards that can be led or played to a trick.
  • The person to the dealer's left leads a card, and everyone else plays a card, clockwise.
  • In fact it is a normal tactic to lead lower spades to try to drive out the queen.
4 [no object] Have the advantage over competitors in a race or game: [with complement]: he followed up with a break of 105 to lead 3-0 [with object]: the Wantage jockey was leading the field
More example sentences
  • Stewart had the dominant car through most of the race, leading for 283 laps.
  • By lap 35 he was leading but the race was far from being over.
  • He led for the entire race and was only caught in the last couple of strides.
be ahead, be winning, be in front, be out in front, be in the lead, be first, come first
4.1 [with object] Be superior to (competitors or colleagues): there will be specific areas or skills in which other nations lead the world
More example sentences
  • In pioneering a new sort of scholarly publication the National Trust could lead the world.
  • All these considerations indicate clearly why countries like the USA and Japan lead the world in the innovation and exporting of high-technology products.
  • Swimming became a popular national exercise in which, for many decades, Britain led the world.
be at the front of, be first in, be ahead of, head;
outdistance, outrun, outstrip, outpace, leave behind, get (further) ahead of, draw away from, shake off;
widen the gap
informal leave standing, walk away from, run rings around
archaic outrival, outvie
5Have or experience (a particular way of life): she’s led a completely sheltered life
More example sentences
  • My aim is to lead a completely nonviolent life, in which I harm nothing.
  • Tyler would lead a completely different life from his parents.
  • I'll be the first to admit that I've led a somewhat sheltered life since arriving in Bulgaria last January.


1The initiative in an action; an example for others to follow: Britain is now taking the lead in environmental policies
More example sentences
  • Well done to Wandsworth Council for taking the lead in this initiative.
  • I am going to follow the lead of a number of other bloggers and take a break now (another one, I know).
  • He said there was no intention to follow the lead of some other professional firms by quitting Bradford in favour of Leeds.
pre-eminence, supremacy, advantage, edge, upper hand, whip hand;
head start
1.1A piece of information that may help in the resolution of a problem: detectives investigating the murder are chasing new leads I have a lead on a job that sounds really promising
More example sentences
  • She said there have been no leads or clues to their whereabouts.
  • Officers are looking for new leads and clues as they hunt the sex fiend who assaulted a 17-year-old girl at knifepoint on February 25.
  • Detectives searching for a missing Hull woman are following new leads which suggest she may have headed off to see her boyfriend after all.
(leads) evidence, information
1.2Someone or something that may be useful, especially a potential customer or business opportunity: setting up a social networking page can help you get numerous leads the goal of marketing is to generate leads so the sales people can close them
More example sentences
  • Planning an ongoing marketing campaign ensures a steady stream of new business leads.
  • The remaining $6 million in sales were brought in by resellers using leads generated from visitors to the site.
  • He made it a personal rule to generate at least one business lead for each new contact.
1.3(In card games) an act or right of playing first in a trick or round of play: it’s your lead
More example sentences
  • If it was not the last trick, the lead for the next trick passes to the left.
  • The queen may take a trick with more points later or win the lead at a crucial moment.
  • The player on the dealer's right has the first lead, and the winner of the trick leads to the next trick.
1.4The card played first in a trick or round: the ♦8 was an inspired lead
More example sentences
  • The winner of the trick is the last person who played a card of the same rank as the original lead or a wild card.
  • If the lead is a trump card all the other players must play trump as well unless they don't have any.
  • Most often no one will be able to beat the lead and the led cards will win the trick.
2 (the lead) A position of advantage in a contest; first place: the team burst into life and took the lead they were beaten 5-3 after twice being in the lead
More example sentences
  • He missed a series of chances, before and after United took the lead.
  • The following week, she took the lead in the overall World Cup.
  • Brazil, meanwhile, looked poor on the whole but created five great chances and are unlucky not to be in the lead.
leading position, leading place, first place, advance position, van, vanguard;
ahead, in front, winning, leading the field, to the fore
informal up front
2.1An amount by which a competitor is ahead of the others: the team held a slender one-goal lead
More example sentences
  • They now have a four point lead over the Lancashire club and are eight points ahead of Oakworth.
  • Going into the final day, Real Madrid had a one-point lead over bitter rivals Barcelona, who had not topped the table all season.
  • Ann held a two shot lead over her nearest competitor, Kay Fanning, after the final eighteen holes.
winning margin, margin, gap, interval
3The chief part in a play or film: she had the lead in a new film [as modifier]: the lead role
More example sentences
  • Considering this is her first lead role in a feature film, she is very impressive.
  • Unless it's an outright silent film, you are never going to see a film in which the lead characters have less dialogue than this one.
  • In the 1950s, the actor Montgomery Clift turned down the lead parts in four films.
leading role, star/starring role, star part, title role, principal part;
star, principal character, male lead, female lead, leading man, leading lady, hero, heroine, protagonist
3.1The person playing the chief part: he still looked like a romantic lead
More example sentences
  • Luckily, the chemistry between the romantic leads feels real.
  • The four leads are not actors that instantly strike me as the master thespians of our age, and yet here they bring unique strengths and gifts to their characters.
  • Apart from the two male leads who were professional actors, non-professionals played all the other roles.
3.2 [usually as modifier] The chief performer or instrument of a specified type: a lead guitarist
More example sentences
  • Contemporary music is played by an orchestra that mainly uses European instruments with a lead singer and chorus.
  • These three make up the band's trio of lead vocalists and songwriters.
  • Four hours before the band was supposed to perform, the lead singer and guitarist was still in New York.
3.3The item of news given the greatest prominence in a newspaper, broadcast, etc. the ‘pensions revolution’ is the lead in the Times [as modifier]: the lead story on CNN
More example sentences
  • Again, all the prime minister had to do was call for calm and he was part of the lead news story.
  • Both local newspapers published lead editorials calling for the privatization of the system.
  • When a story like this is promoted to the lead item on national news bulletins, you know that all perspective has gone out of the window.
3.4 (also lede) US The opening sentence or paragraph of a news article, summarizing the most important aspects of the story: the newswire will be offering two different leads for certain stories, so editors can pick and choose
4British A strap or cord for restraining and guiding a dog or other domestic animal: the dog is our constant walking companion and is always kept on a lead
More example sentences
  • One of the suspects let the animal off its lead and it ran after the victim.
  • Her comments have been backed by Bolton council chiefs, who are now advising people to keep their animals on leads.
  • The prisoners were lifted to their feet, had their ankle bindings cut and ropes tied loosely round their necks like animal leads.
leash, tether, rein, cord, rope, chain, line
5British A wire that conveys electric current from a source to an appliance, or that connects two points of a circuit together.
Example sentences
  • There was a large metal case, with various wires, leads, and tubes connected.
  • Carry out a safety check: tidy trailing electrical leads, plug electricity points for young children and make sure your smoke detectors work.
  • He starts dragging out wires and leads, trying to fix the patching.
6The distance advanced by a screw in one turn.
Example sentences
  • On a single thread screw the pitch and the lead are equal; on a double thread screw the lead is twice the pitch.
  • The lead is the reciprocal of the number of turns required to advance the screw axially.
7An artificial watercourse leading to a mill.
7.1A channel of water in an ice field.
Example sentences
  • Winter ice pack consists of a diverse mix of ice of different thicknesses and floe sizes, and of open water in leads.
  • They finally got the break they needed when they found a way over the open water lead after a 15-hour slog through the blizzard.
  • The drift-ice fields were forced together with such speed, that Johnsen supposed that in a couple of hours the whole lead would be completely closed.



bury the lead


lead someone astray

Cause someone to act or think foolishly or wrongly: many people are led astray by strong feelings
More example sentences
  • But I have never lied to you before, nor led you astray.
  • I'd been intending to go to the gym, but Andy led me astray and I ended up in the pub.
  • He said: ‘It was my father who led me astray and gave me a sample of life abroad when we lived in America.’

lead someone by the nose

informal Control someone totally, especially by deceiving them: the government has been led by the nose by the timber trade so that it suppressed the report
More example sentences
  • As the two start to get drunk, Robby loses what little willpower he has been able to muster (why he is so weak is also unexplained by the film) and Shane leads him by the nose into disaster.
  • And what's more, we don't need a politician to lead us by the nose through the ins and outs of what happens when a country is in the process of being colonised and asset stripped.
  • Many Europeans, in a way Americans find impossible to understand, are willing to let their elites lead them by the nose.

lead from the front

Take an active role in what one is urging and directing others to do: in his two appearances as captain, he led from the front
More example sentences
  • He was good to have on your side and a great captain who led from the front.
  • He has grown into the role as captain of the club he clearly loves and leads from the front.
  • He leads from the front which is what a good captain should do and he is very good at taking care of the younger players.

lead someone up (or down) the garden path

informal Give someone misleading clues or signals: in a crime novel, the reader has to be led up the garden path
More example sentences
  • He said the people of Achill had been led up the garden path on the scheme.
  • And if I've led you up the garden path just to give you a silly acronym by which to remember something simple and obvious, I'm sorry.
  • No doubt there were angry phone calls last week from those writers who may have felt the company had led them up the garden path with its hints and spin.
deceive, mislead, lead on, delude, hoodwink, dupe, trick, ensnare, entrap, tempt, entice, allure, lure, beguile, tantalize, tease, frustrate, flirt with, inveigle, seduce, take in, fool, pull the wool over someone's eyes, gull
informal string along, take for a ride, put one over on

lead with one's chin

(Of a boxer) leave one’s chin unprotected.
Example sentences
  • That's known in boxing parlance as leading with your chin.
  • Being out front hasn't always been pleasant for Meeks, who occasionally leads with his chin.
  • If you've got a glass jaw and you lead with your chin, you shouldn't be surprised when you wind up unconscious on the canvas.
6.1Behave or speak incautiously: she led with the chin and got her own way most of the time
More example sentences
  • He led with his chin, demanding that long-term board members stand down because they were ‘too old.’
  • And for a man who leads with his chin twice a week, he acts awfully surprised when someone takes a pop at it
  • Until it can be clearly refuted, no one wants to take the chance of leading with their chin.

Phrasal verbs


lead off

Baseball Bat first in a game or inning: Tony plays shortstop and leads off
More example sentences
  • In the Braves' half of the first inning, he led off and deposited the first pitch of the game into the left field seats.
  • He hit his home run, leading off in the fourth inning.
  • He led off for the Giants, and took two fastballs to get ahead in the count.
1.1(Of a base runner) be in a position to run from a base while standing off the base.
Example sentences
  • Then all of the sudden I'd hear Vin coming in clear as a bell talking about Davey Lopes leading off of first base or something, and it was like a free ice cream cone had appeared in my hand.
  • A runner leading off second looks in at the catcher's signs and then signals to the batter.

lead someone on

Mislead or deceive someone, especially into believing that one is in love with or attracted to them: she flirted with him and led him on
More example sentences
  • You led me on, making me believe you actually cared!
  • How long would you wait around if the girl you loved kept leading you on and then ditching you to date other men?
  • I just couldn't believe I had lead you on and been so insensitive.

lead up to

Immediately precede: the weeks leading up to the elections
More example sentences
  • Officers are keen to speak to anyone who saw him after that date and in the four days leading up to when he was found.
  • Mrs Wood also suggested her son had reduced his medication in the weeks leading up to his death.
  • In the weeks leading up to 13 August the Nazis attacked a series of black and left wing meetings.





Old English lǣdan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch leiden and German leiten, also to load and lode.

  • Two entirely different strands come together in the spelling lead, with different pronunciations. The lead that rhymes with ‘bead’ shares an ancient root with load; the lead that rhymes with ‘bed’ and means ‘a metal’ is related to Dutch lood ‘lead’ and German Lot ‘plumb line, solder’. The image in to lead someone by the nose, ‘to control someone totally’, is of an animal being led by a ring in its nose. Boxing gave us to lead with your chin ‘to behave or talk incautiously’. It refers to a boxer's stance that leaves his chin unprotected. See also balloon

Words that rhyme with lead

abed, ahead, bed, behead, Birkenhead, bled, bread, bred, coed, cred, crossbred, dead, dread, Ed, embed, Enzed, fed, fled, Fred, gainsaid, head, infrared, ked, 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 accede, bead, Bede, bleed, breed, cede, concede, creed, deed, Eid, exceed, feed, Gide, God speed, greed, he'd, heed, impede, interbreed, intercede, Jamshid, knead, mead, Mede, meed, misdeed, mislead, misread, need, plead, proceed, read, rede, reed, Reid, retrocede, screed, secede, seed, she'd, speed, stampede, steed, succeed, supersede, Swede, tweed, weak-kneed, we'd, weed
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There are 2 main definitions of lead in English:

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lead 2

Pronunciation: /lɛd/


1 [mass noun] A soft, heavy, ductile bluish-grey metal, the chemical element of atomic number 82. It has been used in roofing, plumbing, ammunition, storage batteries, radiation shields, etc., and its compounds have been used in crystal glass, as an anti-knock agent in petrol, and (formerly) in paints. (Symbol: Pb)
Example sentences
  • There's evidence that heavy metals such as lead and cadmium can make osteoporosis worse.
  • Its compounds tend to be found with ores of other metals, such as lead, silver, gold, and cobalt.
  • Unknown quantities of mercury, lead, chromium and cadmium are also on board.
1.1Used figuratively as a symbol of something heavy: Joe’s feet felt like lumps of lead
More example sentences
  • My feet were like lead and I was struggling.
  • On the odd occasion I spent an extra hour on the training ground, but my legs were like lead the following day during the match.
  • My arms and legs felt like lead, and I immediately collapsed to the ground.
2An item or implement made of lead, in particular:
2.1 (leads) British Sheets or strips of lead covering a roof.
Example sentences
  • The ladder was over-short, and it required an effort to heave oneself from it through the casement on to the leads.
  • The church was restored by the late Godfrey Allen, who renewed the leads of the roof.
2.2British A piece of lead-covered roof.
2.3 (leads) Lead frames holding the glass of a lattice or stained-glass window.
2.4 Nautical A lump of lead suspended on a line to determine the depth of water.
Example sentences
  • A man leaped into the chains, and lowering down the lead sounded in seven fathoms.
  • Deep soundings above 6 fathoms (11 m) were impracticable so the practice then was to sound the depth using a line and lead.
  • You'll feel weed fall against the line and the lead get picked up by the swell.
3 [mass noun] Graphite used as the part of a pencil that makes a mark: scrawls done with a bit of pencil lead
More example sentences
  • The transfer was made by first rubbing the back of their sketch with pencil lead.
  • Then I rubbed my lips, my beard, and my hands with pencil lead, and went to bed.
  • The sliding motion of those sheets over each other gives pencil lead its properties.
4 Printing A blank space between lines of print.
Originally with reference to the metal strip used to create this space



get the lead out

North American informal Move or work more quickly.
Example sentences
  • And if he ever gets the lead out and puts the thing online we'll be linking forthwith since it's sure to be a must-read.
  • I could hear Sarge's exhortations: ‘Come on girls, get the lead out’.
  • And if there are any bands out there drawing over one thousand kids a night, please give these guys a call - they're ready to get the lead out and rock yer body to the middle of the dance floor.

go down (or North American over) like a lead balloon

(Of a speech, proposal, or joke) be poorly received: the idea would go down like a lead balloon
More example sentences
  • The administration has, in fact, stopped talking about the president's amnesty proposal because it went over like a lead balloon.
  • As you can imagine, that suggestion of mine went over like a lead balloon among my fellow journalists.
  • Here's hoping this guy's business goes over like a lead balloon.

lead in one's pencil

informal Vigour or energy, especially sexual energy in a man: Hot Springs water will put lead in your pencil!
More example sentences
  • I think the English equivalent is - ‘it puts lead in your pencil’.
  • Now we really will see if Gordon has any lead in his pencil.
  • A third term with a decent majority is really going to put lead in his pencil.


Old English lēad, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch lood 'lead' and German Lot 'plummet, solder'.

  • Two entirely different strands come together in the spelling lead, with different pronunciations. The lead that rhymes with ‘bead’ shares an ancient root with load; the lead that rhymes with ‘bed’ and means ‘a metal’ is related to Dutch lood ‘lead’ and German Lot ‘plumb line, solder’. The image in to lead someone by the nose, ‘to control someone totally’, is of an animal being led by a ring in its nose. Boxing gave us to lead with your chin ‘to behave or talk incautiously’. It refers to a boxer's stance that leaves his chin unprotected. See also balloon

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