v. spread, spread·ing, spreads
1. To open to a fuller extent or width; stretch: spread out the tablecloth; a bird spreading its wings.
2. To make wider the gap between; move farther apart: spread her fingers.
a. To distribute over a surface in a layer: spread varnish on the steps.
b. To cover with a layer: spread a cracker with butter.
a. To distribute widely: The tornado spread destruction.
b. To make a wide or extensive arrangement of: We spread the bicycle parts out on the floor.
c. To exhibit or display the full extent of: the scene that was spread before us.
5. To cause to become widely seen or known; scatter or disseminate: spread the news; spread the beam of the flashlight.
a. To prepare (a table) for eating; set.
b. To arrange (food or a meal) on a table.
7. To flatten (a rivet end, for example) by pounding.
1. To be extended or enlarged: The farm fields spread to the horizon.
2. To move over an area, be distributed, or be widely dispersed: The troops spread out across the field. The volcano's ash spread over the continent.
3. To become known or prevalent over a wide area: The word spread fast.
4. To be exhibited, displayed, or visible in broad or full extent: The vista spread seemingly to infinity.
5. To become or admit of being distributed in a layer: This paint spreads really well.
6. To become separated; be forced farther apart: The land masses spread until there was an ocean between them.
a. The act or process of spreading: the spread of disease.
b. Dissemination, as of news; diffusion.
a. An open area of land; an expanse.
b. A ranch, farm, or estate.
3. The extent or limit to which something is or can be spread: The tree's canopy has a spread of 50 feet.
4. A cloth covering for a bed, table, or other piece of furniture.
5. Informal An abundant meal laid out on a table.
6. A food to be spread on bread or crackers.
a. Two facing pages of a magazine, newspaper, or book, considered as a unit.
b. An article or advertisement running across two or more columns of a newspaper or magazine.
a. A difference, as between two figures or totals: What's the spread between tallest and shortest?
b. A position taken in two or more options or futures contracts in order to profit from a change in their relative prices.
c. The difference between the price asked and bid for a particular security.
d. The difference in yields between two fixed-income securities, as between short-term and long-term bonds.
9. A number of points offered to equalize the chances of winning in a wager on a competition, usually between sports teams. Also called point spread.
spread (oneself) thin
To work on too many projects: overextend oneself.
[Middle English spreden, from Old English -sprǣdan (as in tōsprǣdan, to spread out); see sper- 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.