Etymology
Advertisement

lead (v.1)

"to guide," Old English lædan (transitive) "cause to go with oneself; march at the head of, go before as a guide, accompany and show the way; carry on; sprout forth, bring forth; pass (one's life)," causative of liðan "to travel," from Proto-Germanic *laidjanan (source also of Old Saxon lithan, Old Norse liða "to go," Old High German ga-lidan "to travel," Gothic ga-leiþan "to go"), from PIE *leit- (2) "to go forth."

Of roads, c. 1200. Meaning "to be in first place" is from late 14c. Intransitive sense, "act the part of a leader," is from 1570s. Sense in card playing, "to commence a round or trick," is from 1670s. Meaning "take the directing part in a musical performance or prayer" is from 1849. Related: Led; leading.

To lead with one's chin "leave oneself vulnerable in a contest" (1946) is a figure from boxing. To lead on "entice to advance" is from 1590s. To figuratively lead (someone) by the nose "guide by persuasion" is from 1580s, from draught animals (earlier lead by the sleeve, early 15c.). To lead (someone) a dance "compel through a course of irksome actions" is from 1520s.

lead (n.1)

heavy metal, Old English lead "lead, leaden vessel," from West Germanic *lauda- (source also of Old Frisian lad, Middle Dutch loot, Dutch lood "lead," German Lot "weight, plummet"), a word of uncertain origin. The name and the skill in using the metal seem to have been borrowed from the Celts (compare Old Irish luaide).

Figurative of heaviness at least since early 14c. American English slang lead balloon "dismal failure" attested by 1957, perhaps 1940s (as a type of something heavy that can be kept up only with effort, from 1904). Lead-footed "slow" is from 1896; opposite sense of "fast" emerged 1940s in trucker's jargon, from notion of a foot heavy on the gas pedal.

Meaning "graphite in a pencil" is from 1816 (see pencil (n.)). Black lead was an old name for "graphite," hence lead pencil (1680s) and the colloquial figurative phrase to have lead in one's pencil "be possessed of (especially male sexual) vigor," attested by 1902. White lead (1560s) was an old name for "tin."

As a name of a dull bluish-gray color, 1610s. From 1590s as figurative for "bullets." Lead oxide was much used in glazing, mirror-making, and pigments. In printing, "thin strip of type-metal (often lead but sometimes brass) used in composition to separate lines" from 1808, earlier space-line. Lead-poisoning is from 1848; earlier lead-distemper (1774).

lead (n.2)

c. 1300, "action of leading," from lead (v.1). Meaning "the front or leading place" is from 1560s. Johnson stigmatized it as "a low, despicable word." Sense in card-playing, "action or privilege of playing first," is from 1742; in theater, "the principal part," from 1831; in journalism, "initial summary of a news story," from 1912 (often spelled lede to distinguish it from lead (n.1), which formerly played a prominent role in typesetting. Boxing sense is from 1906. In jazz bands, from 1934 in reference to the principal parts; earlier it was used in music in reference to fugues (1880) of the part that takes off first and is "followed" by the others.

Meaning "direction given by example" (as in follow (someone's) lead) is by 1863, that of "a clue to a solution" is by 1851, both from the notion of "thing to be followed." As an adjective, "leading," by 1846. Lead-time "time needed to produce something" is 1945, American English.

lead (v.2)

early 15c., "to make of lead," from lead (n.1). Meaning "to cover with lead" is from mid-15c. In printing, 1841, also lead out.

lead (adj.)

"made of or resembling lead," late 14c., from lead (n.1).

Others are reading

Advertisement
Advertisement
Definitions of lead
1
lead (n.)
an advantage held by a competitor in a race;
he took the lead at the last turn
lead (n.)
a soft heavy toxic malleable metallic element; bluish white when freshly cut but tarnishes readily to dull grey;
the children were playing with lead soldiers
Synonyms: Pb / atomic number "
lead (n.)
evidence pointing to a possible solution;
the police are following a promising lead
the trail led straight to the perpetrator
Synonyms: track / trail
lead (n.)
a position of being the initiator of something and an example that others will follow (especially in the phrase `take the lead');
we were just waiting for someone to take the lead
they didn't follow our lead
he takes the lead in any group
lead (n.)
the angle between the direction a gun is aimed and the position of a moving target (correcting for the flight time of the missile);
lead (n.)
the introductory section of a story;
it was an amusing lead-in to a very serious matter
Synonyms: lead-in / lede
lead (n.)
(sports) the score by which a team or individual is winning;
lead (n.)
an actor who plays a principal role;
Synonyms: star / principal
lead (n.)
(baseball) the position taken by a base runner preparing to advance to the next base;
he took a long lead off first
lead (n.)
an indication of potential opportunity;
a good lead for a job
Synonyms: tip / steer / confidential information / wind / hint
lead (n.)
a news story of major importance;
Synonyms: lead story
lead (n.)
the timing of ignition relative to the position of the piston in an internal-combustion engine;
Synonyms: spark advance
lead (n.)
restraint consisting of a rope (or light chain) used to restrain an animal;
Synonyms: leash / tether
lead (n.)
thin strip of metal used to separate lines of type in printing;
Synonyms: leading
lead (n.)
mixture of graphite with clay in different degrees of hardness; the marking substance in a pencil;
Synonyms: pencil lead
lead (n.)
a jumper that consists of a short piece of wire;
it was a tangle of jumper cables and clip leads
Synonyms: jumper cable / jumper lead / booster cable
lead (n.)
the playing of a card to start a trick in bridge;
the lead was in the dummy
2
lead (v.)
take somebody somewhere;
We lead him to our chief
Synonyms: take / direct / conduct / guide
lead (v.)
produce as a result or residue;
Synonyms: leave / result
lead (v.)
tend to or result in;
This remark lead to further arguments among the guests
lead (v.)
travel in front of; go in advance of others;
Synonyms: head
lead (v.)
cause to undertake a certain action;
Her greed led her to forge the checks
lead (v.)
stretch out over a distance, space, time, or scope; run or extend between two points or beyond a certain point;
Synonyms: run / go / pass / extend
lead (v.)
be in charge of;
Synonyms: head
lead (v.)
be ahead of others; be the first;
Synonyms: top
lead (v.)
be conducive to;
The use of computers in the classroom lead to better writing
Synonyms: contribute / conduce
lead (v.)
lead, as in the performance of a composition; "conduct an orchestra; Barenboim conducted the Chicago symphony for years";
Synonyms: conduct / direct
lead (v.)
lead, extend, or afford access;
Synonyms: go
lead (v.)
move ahead (of others) in time or space;
Synonyms: precede
lead (v.)
cause something to pass or lead somewhere;
Synonyms: run
lead (v.)
preside over;
Synonyms: moderate / chair
From wordnet.princeton.edu