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(1)   The playing of a card to start a trick in bridge
"The lead was in the dummy"
(2)   A position of leadership (especially in the phrase `take the lead')
"He takes the lead in any group"
"We were just waiting for someone to take the lead"
"They didn't follow our lead"
(3)   A jumper that consists of a short piece of wire
"It was a tangle of jumper cables and clip leads"
(4)   Mixture of graphite with clay in different degrees of hardness; the marking substance in a pencil
(5)   Thin strip of metal used to separate lines of type in printing
(6)   Restraint consisting of a rope (or light chain) used to restrain an animal
(7)   The timing of ignition relative to the position of the piston in an internal-combustion engine
(8)   An advantage held by a competitor in a race
"He took the lead at the last turn"
(9)   Evidence pointing to a possible solution
"The police are following a promising lead"
"The trail led straight to the perpetrator"
(10)   The introductory section of a story
"It was an amusing lead-in to a very serious matter"
(11)   A news story of major importance
(12)   An indication of potential opportunity
"He got a tip on the stock market"
"A good lead for a job"
(13)   (baseball) the position taken by a base runner preparing to advance to the next base
"He took a long lead off first"
(14)   An actor who plays a principal role
(15)   (sports) the score by which a team or individual is winning
(16)   The angle between the direction a gun is aimed and the position of a moving target (correcting for the flight time of the missile)
(17)   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"


(18)   Cause to undertake a certain action
"Her greed led her to forge the checks"
(19)   Preside over
"John moderated the discussion"
(20)   Lead, as in the performance of a composition
"Conduct an orchestra; Barenboim conducted the Chicago symphony for years"
(21)   Move ahead (of others) in time or space
(22)   Travel in front of; go in advance of others
"The procession was headed by John"
(23)   Take somebody somewhere
"We lead him to our chief"
"Can you take me to the main entrance?"
"He conducted us to the palace"
(24)   Be in charge of
"Who is heading this project?"
(25)   Have as a result or residue
"The water left a mark on the silk dress"
"Her blood left a stain on the napkin"
(26)   Stretch out over a distance, space, time, or scope; run or extend between two points or beyond a certain point
"Service runs all the way to Cranbury"
"His knowledge doesn't go very far"
"My memory extends back to my fourth year of life"
"The facts extend beyond a consideration of her personal assets"
(27)   Lead, extend, or afford access
"This door goes to the basement"
"The road runs South"
(28)   Cause something to pass or lead somewhere
"Run the wire behind the cabinet"
(29)   Be ahead of others; be the first
"She topped her class every year"
(30)   Pass or spend
"Lead a good life"


Etymology 1

From , from , from a . Cognate with Dutch , German Swedish and Danish .


  1. A heavy, pliable, inelastic metal element, having a bright, bluish color, but easily tarnished; both malleable and ductile, though with little tenacity. It is easily fusible, forms alloys with other metals, and is an ingredient of solder and type metal. Atomic number 82, Atomic weight 206.4, Specific Gravity 11.37, Symbol Pb (from Latin plumbum).
  2. A plummet or mass of lead attached to a line, used in sounding depth at sea or to estimate velocity in knots.
  3. A thin strip of type metal, used to separate lines of type in printing.
  4. Vertical space in advance of a row or between rows of text. Also known as leading.
    This copy has too much lead; I prefer less space between the lines.
  5. Sheets or plates of lead used as a covering for roofs.
  6. A roof covered with lead sheets or terne plates.
    • I would have the tower two stories, and goodly leads upon the top. — Bacon
  7. A thin cylinder of black lead or plumbago (graphite) used in pencils.
  8. bullets
    They filled him full of lead.


  1. To cover, fill, or affect with lead; as, continuous firing leads the grooves of a rifle.
  2. To place leads between the lines of; as, to lead a page; leaded matter.

Usage notes

Note carefully these two senses are verbs derived from the noun referring to the metallic element, and are unrelated to the heteronym defined below under #Etymology 2.

See also

  • plumbian
  • plumbic
  • plumbicon
  • plumbiferous
  • plumbine
  • plumbing
  • plumbism
  • plumbisolvency
  • plumbisolvent

Etymology 2

From , probably a causative form of . Cognate with Dutch , German , Swedish , Danish .


  1. To guide or conduct with the hand, or by means of some physical contact connection; as, a father leads a child; a jockey leads a horse with a halter; a dog leads a blind man.
    • If a blind man lead a blind man, both fall down in the ditch. — John Wyclif on Matthew 15:14
    • They thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill. — Luke 4:29
    • In thy right hand lead with thee The mountain nymph, sweet Liberty. — Milton
  2. To guide or conduct in a certain course, or to a certain place or end, by making the way known; to show the way, especially by going with or going in advance of, to lead a pupil; to guide somebody somewhere or to bring somebody somewhere by means of instructions. Hence, figuratively: To direct; to counsel; to instruct; as, to lead a traveler.
    • The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way. — Exodus 13:21
    • He leadeth me beside the still waters. — Psalms 23:2
    • This thought might lead me through the world’s vain mask. Content, though blind, had I no better guide. — Milton.
  3. To conduct or direct with authority; to have direction or charge of; as, to lead an army, an exploring party, or a search; to lead a political party; to command, especially a military or business unit
    • Christ took not upon him flesh and blood that he might conquer and rule nations, lead armies, or possess places. — Robert South
  4. To go or to be in advance of; to precede; hence, to be foremost or chief among; as, the big sloop led the fleet of yachts; the Guards led the attack; Demosthenes leads the orators of all ages.
  5. To draw or direct by influence, whether good or bad; to prevail on; to induce; to entice; to allure; as, to lead one to espouse a righteous cause.
    • The evidence leads me to believe he is guilty.
    • He was driven by the necessities of the times, more than led by his own disposition, to any rigor of actions. — Eikon Basilike
    • Silly women, laden with sins, led away by divers lusts. — 2 Timothy 3:6.
  6. To guide or conduct oneself in, through, or along (a certain course); hence, to proceed in the way of; to follow the path or course of; to pass; to spend. Also, to cause (one) to proceed or follow in (a certain course).
    • That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life. — 1 Timothy 2:2
    • Nor thou with shadowed hint confuse A life that leads melodious days. — Alfred Tennyson
    • You remember . . . the life he used to lead his wife and daughter. — Dickens
  7. To begin a game, round, or trick, with; as, to lead trumps
    He led a double five.
  8. To guide or conduct, as by accompanying, going before, showing, influencing, directing with authority, etc.; to have precedence or preeminence; to be first or chief; — used in most of the senses of the transitive verb.
  9. To be ahead of others, e.g., in a race
  10. To have the highest interim score in a game
  11. To be more advanced in technology or business than others
  12. To tend or reach in a certain direction, or to a certain place; as, the path leads to the mill; gambling leads to other vices.
    • The mountain-foot that leads towards Mantua. — Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Verona, V-ii
  13. To lead off or out, to go first; to begin.
  14. To produce.
    The shock led to a change in his behaviour.
  15. To step off base and move towards the next base.
    The batter always leads off base.


  1. The act of leading or conducting; guidance; direction; as, to take the lead; to be under the lead of another.
    • At the time I speak of, and having a momentary lead, . . . I am sure I did my country important service. — Edmund Burke
  2. Precedence; advance position; also, the measure of precedence; as, the white horse had the lead; a lead of a boat’s length, or of half a second; the state of being ahead in a race; the highest score in a game in an incomplete game.
  3. When a runner steps away from a base while waiting for the pitch to be thrown
    The runner took his lead from first.
  4. (cards and dominoes) The act or right of playing first in a game or round; the card suit, or piece, so played; as, your partner has the lead.
  5. A channel of open water in an ice field.
  6. A lode.
  7. The course of a rope from end to end.
  8. A rope, leather strap, or similar device with which to lead an animal; a leash
  9. In a steam engine, The width of port opening which is uncovered by the valve, for the admission or release of steam, at the instant when the piston is at end of its stroke.
    • Usage note: When used alone it means outside lead, or lead for the admission of steam. Inside lead refers to the release or exhaust.
  10. charging lead
  11. The distance of haul, as from a cutting to an embankment.
  12. The action of a tooth, as a tooth of a wheel, in impelling another tooth or a pallet. — Claudias Saunier
  13. Hypothesis that has not been pursued
    • The investigation stalled when all leads turned out to be dead ends.
  14. Information obtained by a detective or police officer that allows him or her to discover further details about a crime or incident.
  15. Potential opportunity for a sale or transaction, a potential customer.
    • Joe is a great addition to our sales team, he has numerous leads in the paper industry.
  16. Information obtained by a news reporter about an issue or subject that allows him or her to discover more details.
  17. The player who throws the first two rocks for a team.
  18. A teaser; a lead in; the start of a newspaper column, telling who, what, when, where, why and how. (Sometimes spelled as lede for this usage to avoid ambiguity.)
  19. The axial distance a screw thread travels in one revolution. It is equal to the pitch times the number of starts.

Usage notes

Note that these noun (attributive) uses are all derived from the verb, not the chemical element in #Etymology 1.


  1. Foremost.
    The contestants are all tied; no one has the lead position.