Meaning of LEAD in English

I. lead 1 S1 W1 /liːd/ BrE AmE verb ( past tense and past participle led /led/)

[ Word Family: noun : lead, ↑ leader , ↑ leadership ; adjective : lead, ↑ leading ; verb : ↑ lead ]

[ Language: Old English ; Origin: lædan ]

1 . TAKE SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE [intransitive and transitive] to take someone somewhere by going in front of them while they follow, or by pulling them gently

lead somebody to/into etc something

A nurse took her arm and led her to a chair.

The horses were led to safety.

lead somebody away/down etc

She was led away from the courtroom in tears.

The manager led the way through the office.

2 . GO IN FRONT [intransitive and transitive] to go in front of a line of people or vehicles:

A firetruck was leading the parade.

3 . BE IN CHARGE [intransitive and transitive] to be in charge of an organization, country, or team, or a group of people who are trying to do something:

He has led the party for over twenty years.

Some people say she is too old to lead the country (=be in charge of its government) .

Beckham led his team to victory.

lead an investigation/inquiry/campaign

The investigation will be led by Inspector Scarfe.

They are leading a campaign to warn teenagers about the dangers of drug abuse.

lead a revolt/rebellion/coup etc

The rebellion was led by the King’s brother.

lead an attack/assault

Nelson preferred to lead the attack himself from the front.

a man who was born to lead

a communist-led strike

4 . CAUSE SOMETHING TO HAPPEN [intransitive and transitive] to cause something to happen or cause someone to do something

lead to

the events that led to the start of the First World War

A degree in English could lead to a career in journalism.

lead somebody into something

Her trusting nature often led her into trouble.

lead somebody to do something

What led him to kill his wife?

lead to somebody doing something

His actions could lead to him losing his job.

5 . CAUSE SOMEBODY TO BELIEVE SOMETHING [transitive] to make someone believe something, especially something that is not true

lead somebody to believe/expect/understand something

He had led everyone to believe that his family was very wealthy.

The hotel was terrible, and not at all what we had been led to expect.

Our research led us to the conclusion that the present system is unfair.

6 . INFLUENCE [transitive] to influence someone to make them do something that is wrong

lead somebody into something

His brother led him into a life of crime.

He’s not a bad boy. He’s just easily led (=it is easy for other people to persuade him to do things that he should not do) .

7 . BE MORE SUCCESSFUL [transitive] to be more successful than other people, companies, or countries in a particular activity

lead the world/market/pack/field

US companies lead the world in biotechnology.

lead the way (=be the first to do something, and show other people how to do it)

The Swedes have led the way in data protection.

⇨ ↑ leading 1 (1)

8 . BE WINNING [intransitive and transitive] to be winning a game, competition etc OPP lose :

At half-time, Brazil led 1–0.

With 15 laps to go, Schumacher led the race.

The polls showed Clinton leading Bush 55 percent to 34 percent.

lead by ten points/two goals etc

Nadal was leading by two sets.

9 . PATH/DOOR ETC [intransitive, transitive always + adverb/preposition] used to say where a path, wire etc goes or what place is on the other side of a door

lead to/towards

The path led down to a small lake.

lead from/out of

the major artery leading from the heart

lead into

the door leading into the hallway

lead somebody to/into something

The riverside path leads visitors to a small chapel.

10 . LIFE [transitive] if you lead a particular kind of life, that is what your life is like

lead a normal/quiet/busy etc life

If the operation succeeds, Carly will be able to lead a normal life.

He has led a charmed life (=been very fortunate) .

lead a life of luxury/poverty etc

lead the life of a ...

She now leads the life of a recluse.

lead a double life (=deceive people by keeping different parts of your life separate and not letting anyone know the whole truth)

Joe had been leading a double life, seeing an ex-model while his wife believed he was on business.

They lead a nomadic existence.

11 . DISCUSSION ETC [transitive always + adverb/preposition] to control the way a discussion, conversation etc develops:

I tried to lead the conversation back to the subject of money.

12 . lead somebody up the garden path informal to deliberately deceive someone

13 . lead somebody astray

a) to encourage someone to do bad or immoral things which they would not normally do

b) to make someone believe something that is not true

14 . lead nowhere/not lead anywhere to not produce any useful result:

So far police investigations seem to have led nowhere.

15 . lead by example to show the people you are in charge of what you want them to do by doing it yourself:

The best managers lead by example.

16 . lead somebody by the nose to influence someone so much that you can completely control everything that they do:

Politicians think they can easily lead people by the nose.

17 . this/that leads (me) to something used to introduce a new subject that is connected to the previous one:

That leads me to my final point. Where are we going to get the money?

18 . somebody has their own life to lead used to say that someone wants to be able to live their life independently, without having to do things that other people want them to do

19 . lead somebody a merry old dance/a right old dance British English to cause a lot of problems or worries for someone

20 . market-led/export-led etc most influenced by the market, by ↑ export s etc:

an export-led economic recovery

21 . lead the eye if a picture, view etc leads the eye in a particular direction, it makes you look in that direction:

marble columns that lead the eye upward

22 . CARD GAME [intransitive and transitive] to play a particular card as your first card in one part of a card game

• • •


▪ lead to take a person or animal somewhere by going in front of them while they follow, or by pulling them gently:

Rachel led Jo into the kitchen.


She was leading a horse, which seemed to have a bad leg.

▪ take to take someone somewhere with you when you have the transport, know the way, are paying etc:

I took her to see a film.


Matt’s taking me in his car.

▪ guide to take someone through or to a place you know, showing them the way:

Ali guided us through the streets to his house on the edge of the town.

▪ show to take someone to a place such as a table in a restaurant or a hotel room and leave them there:

A waitress showed us to our table.


We were shown to our seats near the front of the theatre.

▪ point to show someone which direction to go using your hand or a sign:

The sign back there pointed this way.

▪ escort to take someone somewhere, protecting them, guarding them, or showing them the way:

He was escorted from the court by police.


The President’s car will be escorted by a military convoy.

▪ usher to show someone the way to a room or building nearby, usually as part of your job:

His housekeeper ushered us into the living room.

▪ shepherd to carefully take someone somewhere – used especially about a group of people:

The police shepherded thousands of people to safety in the cathedral.

▪ direct formal to tell someone where to go or how to get somewhere:

He directed us to a cafe a few blocks away.


Can you direct me to the station?

lead off phrasal verb

1 . to start a meeting, discussion, performance etc by saying or doing something:

I’d like to lead off by thanking Rick for coming.

lead off with

The French team led off with two quick goals in the first five minutes.

lead something ↔ off

Hal led the evening off with some folk songs.

2 . lead off (something) if a road, room etc leads off a place, you can go directly from that place along that road, into that room etc

lead off from something

He pointed down a street leading off from the square.

a large room, with doors leading off it in all directions

3 . to be the first player to try to hit the ball in an ↑ inning (=period of play) in a game of baseball

lead somebody on phrasal verb

to deceive someone, especially to make them think you love them:

He thought she loved him, but in fact she was just leading him on.

lead on to something ( also lead onto something ) phrasal verb especially British English

to cause something to develop or become possible at a later time:

Alan Turing’s work led onto the development of modern computers.

lead with something phrasal verb

1 . if a newspaper or television programme leads with a particular story, that story is the main one:

The Washington Post leads with the latest news from Israel.

2 . to use a particular hand to begin an attack in ↑ boxing , or a particular foot to begin a dance:

Adam led with his left and punched his opponent on the jaw.

lead up to something phrasal verb [not in passive]

1 . if a series of events or a period of time leads up to an event, it comes before it or causes it:

the weeks that led up to her death

the events leading up to his dismissal

2 . to gradually introduce an embarrassing, upsetting, or surprising subject into a conversation:

She had already guessed what he was leading up to.

II. lead 2 S2 W2 BrE AmE noun

1 . the lead the first position in a race or competition:

She was in the lead from start to finish.

The Canadians went into the lead after only 30 seconds.

The goal put Holland into the lead.

The Bears took the lead for the first time this season.

2 . [singular] the amount or distance by which one competitor is ahead of another:

The Chicago Bulls had a narrow lead (=were winning by a small number of points) .

lead over

The Socialists now have a commanding lead over their opponents.

3 . [singular] if someone follows someone else’s lead, they do the same as the other person has done:

Other countries are likely to follow the U.S.'s lead.

The Government should give industry a lead in tackling racism (=show what other people should do) .

The black population in the 1960s looked to Ali for a lead (=looked to him to show them what they should do) .

4 . take the lead (in doing something) to be the first to start doing something or be most active in doing something:

The U.S. took the lead in declaring war on terrorism.

5 . [countable] a piece of information that may help you to solve a crime or mystery SYN clue :

The police have checked out dozens of leads, but have yet to find the killer.

6 . [countable] the main acting part in a play, film etc, or the main actor

play the lead/the lead role

He will play the lead role in Hamlet.

Powers was cast in the lead role (=he was chosen to play it) .

the male/female lead

They were having trouble casting the female lead.

the film’s romantic lead

7 . lead singer/guitarist etc the main singer, ↑ guitarist etc in a group

lead singer/guitarist etc of/with

the lead singer of Nirvana

8 . [countable] British English a piece of rope, leather, or chain for holding or controlling a dog SYN leash

on a lead

All dogs must be kept on a lead.

9 . [countable] British English a wire used to connect a piece of electrical equipment to the power supply SYN cord American English ⇨ ↑ jump leads

• • •


■ verbs

▪ be in the lead

He was in the lead after the first lap of the race.

▪ have the lead

He has a one-shot lead in the golf tournament.

▪ take the lead (=start being in the lead instead of someone else)

Lewis Hamilton has just taken the lead in the Monaco Grand Prix.

▪ put somebody in the lead (=make someone be in the lead)

Ronaldo’s goal put Portugal in the lead.

▪ give somebody the lead (=make someone be in the lead)

A goal in the 10th minute gave England the lead.

▪ extend/increase/stretch sb’s lead (=make the lead bigger)

The Australian rugby team extended its lead with a try from Stirling Mortlock.

▪ throw away a lead (=to lose the lead)

Arsenal threw away a two-goal lead.

▪ blow a lead informal (=to lose the lead)

They managed to blow a 22-point lead.

▪ share the lead (=when more than one player or team is in the lead )

At the end of the first round, two golfers share the lead.


▪ a big lead

The Bruins had a big lead at half-time.

▪ a clear lead

The ruling Labour Party has a clear lead in the opinion polls.

▪ a comfortable lead (=a big lead)

The Wildcats had a comfortable lead in the first half.

▪ a commanding lead (=a big lead)

Alonso raced into a commanding lead.

▪ an early lead (=a lead early in a game, election etc)

Liverpool took an early lead with a goal from Steven Gerrard.

▪ a one-shot/two-goal/three point etc lead (=a lead of a specific amount)

Goals by Keane and Lennon gave Tottenham a two-goal lead.

III. lead 3 /led/ BrE AmE noun

1 . [uncountable] a soft heavy grey metal that melts easily and is poisonous, used to cover roofs, or in the past, for water pipes. It is a chemical ↑ element : symbol Pb

2 . [uncountable and countable] the central part of a pencil that makes the marks when you write

3 . go down like a lead balloon informal if a suggestion or joke goes down like a lead balloon, people do not like it at all

4 . [uncountable] American English old-fashioned bullets:

They filled him full of lead.

5 . leads [plural]

a) sheets of lead used for covering a roof

b) narrow pieces of lead used for holding small pieces of glass together to form a window

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.