v. & n.
v. (past and past part. led) 1 tr. cause to go with one, esp. by guiding or showing the way or by going in front and taking a person's hand or an animal's halter etc. 2 tr. a direct the actions or opinions of. b (often foll. by to, or to + infin.) guide by persuasion or example or argument (what led you to that conclusion?; was led to think you may be right). 3 tr. (also absol.) provide access to; bring to a certain position or destination (this door leads you into a small room; the road leads to Lincoln; the path leads uphill). 4 tr. pass or go through (a life etc. of a specified kind) (led a miserable existence). 5 tr. a have the first place in (lead the dance; leads the world in sugar production). b (absol.) go first; be ahead in a race or game. c (absol.) be pre-eminent in some field. 6 tr. be in charge of (leads a team of researchers). 7 tr. a direct by example. b set (a fashion). c be the principal player of (a group of musicians). 8 tr. (also absol.) begin a round of play at cards by playing (a card) or a card of (a particular suit). 9 intr. (foll. by to) have as an end or outcome; result in (what does all this lead to?). 10 intr. (foll. by with) Boxing make an attack (with a particular blow). 11 a intr. (foll. by with) (of a newspaper) use a particular item as the main story (led with the Stock Market crash). b tr. (of a story) be the main feature of (a newspaper or part of it) (the royal wedding will lead the front page). 12 tr. (foll. by through) make (a liquid, strip of material, etc.) pass through a pulley, channel, etc.
n. 1 guidance given by going in front; example. 2 a a leading place; the leadership (is in the lead; take the lead). b the amount by which a competitor is ahead of the others (a lead of ten yards). 3 a clue, esp. an early indication of the resolution of a problem (is the first real lead in the case). 4 a strap or cord for leading a dog etc. 5 a conductor (usu. a wire) conveying electric current from a source to an appliance. 6 a the chief part in a play etc. b the person playing this. 7 (in full lead story) the item of news given the greatest prominence in a newspaper or magazine. 8 a the act or right of playing first in a game or round of cards. b the card led. 9 the distance advanced by a screw in one turn. 10 a an artificial watercourse, esp. one leading to a mill. b a channel of water in an ice-field. lead astray see ASTRAY. lead by the nose cajole (a person) into compliance. lead a person a dance see DANCE. lead-in 1 an introduction, opening, etc. 2 a wire leading in from outside, esp. from an aerial to a receiver or transmitter. lead off 1 begin; make a start. 2 colloq. lose one's temper. lead-off n. an action beginning a process. lead on 1 entice into going further than was intended. 2 mislead or deceive. lead time the time between the initiation and completion of a production process. lead up the garden path colloq. mislead. lead the way see WAY. leadable adj.
[ OE ldan f. Gmc ]