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lead·ing 1 (lēdĭng)
1. Having a position in the lead; foremost: the leading runner in the race.
2. Chief; principal: the leading cause of high inflation. See Synonyms at chief.
3. Of or performing a principal role in a film, play, show, or other scripted production: a leading role.
4. Formulated so as to elicit a desired response: a leading question.

leading·ly adv.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
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.
8. Games
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.
12. Geology
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.
Phrasal Verbs:
lead off
1. To begin; start.
2. Baseball To be the first batter in an inning.
lead on
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.
lead·ing 2 (lĕdĭng)
1. A border or rim of lead, as around a windowpane.
2. Printing The spacing between lines, usually measured in points.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
lead 2 (lĕd)
1. Symbol Pb A soft, malleable, ductile, bluish-white, dense metallic element, extracted chiefly from galena and used in containers and pipes for corrosives, solder and type metal, bullets, radiation shielding, paints, glass, storage batteries, and antiknock compounds. Atomic number 82; atomic weight 207.2; melting point 327.5°C; boiling point 1,749°C; specific gravity 11.35; valence 2, 4. See Periodic Table.
a. Any of various, often graphitic compositions used as the writing substance in pencils.
b. A thin stick of such material.
3. Bullets from or for firearms; shot: pumped the target full of lead.
4. A lead weight suspended by a line, used to make soundings.
5. Printing A thin strip of metal used to separate lines of type.
6. leads
a. Strips of lead used to hold the panes of a window.
b. Chiefly British A flat roof covered with sheets of lead.
tr.v. lead·ed, lead·ing, leads
1. To cover, line, weight, or fill with lead.
2. Printing To provide space between (lines of type) with leads.
3. To secure (window glass) with leads.
4. To treat with lead or a lead compound: leaded gasoline; leaded paint.
get the lead out Informal
To start moving or move more rapidly.

[Middle English led, from Old English lēad, probably of Celtic origin.]

lead adj.

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:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    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.