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 ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus