lead 1 (lēd)
v. led (lĕd), lead·ing, leads
1. To show the way to by going in advance: The host led us to our table. See Synonyms at guide.
2. To guide or direct in a course: lead a horse by the halter.
a. To serve as a route for; take: The path led them to a cemetery.
b. To be a channel or conduit for (water or electricity, for example).
4. To guide the behavior or opinion of; induce: led us to believe otherwise.
a. To direct the performance or activities of: lead an orchestra.
b. To inspire the conduct of: led the nation in its crisis.
6. To play a principal or guiding role in: lead a discussion; led the antiwar movement.
a. To go or be at the head of: The queen led the procession. My name led the list.
b. To be ahead of: led the runner-up by three strides.
c. To be foremost in or among: led the field in nuclear research; led her teammates in free throws.
8. To pass or go through; live: lead an independent life.
9. To begin or open with, as in games: led an ace.
10. To guide (a partner) in dancing.
a. To aim in front of (a moving target).
b. Sports To pass a ball or puck ahead of (a moving teammate) so that the player can receive the pass without changing direction or losing speed.
1. To be first; be ahead.
2. To go first as a guide.
3. To act as commander, director, or guide.
4. To afford a passage, course, or route: a road that leads over the mountains; a door leading to the pantry.
5. To tend toward a certain goal or result: a remark that led to further discussion; policies that led to disaster.
6. To make the initial play, as in a game or contest.
7. To begin a presentation or account in a given way: The announcer led with the day's top stories.
a. To guide a dance partner.
b. To start a dance step on a specified foot.
9. Baseball To advance or stand a few paces away from one's base toward the next while the pitcher prepares to deliver a pitch. Used of a base runner.
10. Sports To begin an attack in boxing with a specified hand or punch: led with a right to the body.
a. The first or foremost position: a racer in the lead.
b. One occupying such a position; a leader.
c. The initiative: took the lead in setting the pace of the project.
2. The margin by which one holds a position of advantage or superiority: held a lead of nine points at the half.
a. Information pointing toward a possible solution; a clue: followed a promising lead in the murder case.
b. An indication of potential opportunity; a tip: a good lead for a job.
4. Command; leadership: took over the lead of the company.
5. An example; a precedent: followed his sister's lead in running for office.
a. The principal role in a film, play, show, or other scripted production.
b. The person playing such a role.
a. The introductory portion of a news story, especially the first sentence.
b. An important, usually prominently displayed news story.
a. The first play.
b. The prerogative or turn to make the first play: The lead passes to the player on the left.
c. A card played first in a round.
9. Baseball An amount of space that a base runner moves or stands away from one base in the direction of the next while the pitcher prepares to deliver a pitch.
10. Sports A blow in boxing that begins a series or exchange of punches.
11. A leash.
a. A deposit of gold ore in an old riverbed.
b. See lode.
13. Electronics A conductor by which one circuit element is electrically connected to another.
14. Nautical The direction in which a line runs.
15. The distance aimed in front of a moving target.
16. A channel of open water created by a break in a mass of ice.
1. First or foremost: the lead leg on a surfboard.
2. Most important: the lead author of a research paper.
1. To begin; start.
2. Baseball To be the first batter in an inning.
1. To keep in a state of expectation or hope; entice.
2. To mislead; deceive.
lead the way
1. To show a course or route by going in advance.
2. To be foremost in an endeavor or trend: The firm led the way in the application of new technology.
lead up to
1. To result in by a series of steps: events leading up to the coup.
2. To proceed toward (a main topic) with preliminary remarks.
[Middle English leden, from Old English lǣdan; see leit- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.