Meaning of SPREAD in English


I. spread 1 S2 W2 /spred/ BrE AmE verb ( past tense and past participle spread )

[ Language: Old English ; Origin: sprædan ]

1 . AFFECT MORE PEOPLE/PLACES [intransitive and transitive] if something spreads or is spread, it becomes larger or moves so that it affects more people or a larger area

spread through

Fire quickly spread through the building.

spread over

He watched the dark stain spread over the gray carpet.

spread among

The disease spread rapidly amongst the poor.

spread (from something) to something

The cancer had spread to her liver.

Revolution quickly spread from France to Italy.


a) [intransitive] to become known about or used by more and more people:

News of the explosion spread swiftly.

spread to/through/over etc

Buddhism spread to China from India.

The news spread like wildfire (=very quickly) .

Word spread quickly that she was leaving.

b) [transitive] to tell a lot of people about something:

Andy loves spreading rumours about his colleagues.

They are spreading the word about the benefits of immunization.

3 . OPEN/ARRANGE ( also spread out ) [transitive] to open something out or arrange a group of things so that they cover a flat surface

spread something over/across/on something

Papers and photos were spread across the floor.

He spread the map out on the desk.

a table spread with a white cloth

4 . THROUGHOUT AN AREA [intransitive] ( also be spread , spread out ) to cover or exist across a large area

spread over

the forest that spread over the whole of that region

spread throughout

The company has more than 2,500 shops spread throughout the UK.

5 . SOFT SUBSTANCE [intransitive and transitive] to put a soft substance over a surface, or to be soft enough to be put over a surface

spread something on/over something

He spread plaster on the walls.

spread something with something

Spread the toast thinly with jam.

If you warm up the butter, it’ll spread more easily.

Spread the nut mixture evenly over the bottom.

6 . ARMS/FINGERS ETC [transitive] if you spread your arms, fingers, or legs, you move them far apart:

He shrugged and spread his hands.

7 . OVER TIME [transitive] ( also spread out ) to do something over a period of time, rather than at one time

spread something over something

Could I spread the repayments over a longer period?

There will be 12 concerts spread throughout the summer.

8 . SHARE [transitive] to share or divide something among several people or things

spread the load/burden

The bills are sent out on different dates to spread the workload on council staff.

They want the country’s wealth to be more evenly spread.

9 . SMILE/LOOK [intransitive always + adverb/preposition] if an expression spreads over someone’s face, it slowly appears on their face

spread over/across

A slow smile spread over her face.

10 . spread your wings

a) to start to have an independent life and experience new things:

A year spent studying abroad should allow him to spread his wings a bit.

b) if a bird or insect spreads its wings, it stretches them wide

11 .

a) be spread (too) thin/thinly if money, effort etc is spread thin, it is being used for many things so there is not enough for each thing:

They complained that resources were spread too thinly.

b) spread yourself too thin to try to do too many things at the same time so that you do not do any of them effectively

12 . spread seeds/manure/fertilizer to scatter seeds, ↑ manure etc on the ground

⇨ spread your net wide at ↑ net 1 (8)

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meanings 1 & 2)

■ nouns

▪ a disease spreads/is spread (=among a group of people)

The disease is spread by mosquitoes.

▪ a cancer/infection spreads (=in someone’s body)

The cancer had spread to his brain.

▪ news/word spreads

As news of his death spread, his army disintegrated.

▪ spread the news/the word

He has been spreading the word about ways to beat heart disease.

▪ spread a story ( also spread a rumour British English , spread a rumor American English )

When Brown’s hotel burned down, Clark spread the rumor that Forsyth was to blame.

▪ a story spreads ( also a rumour spreads British English , a rumor spreads American English )

It was the sort of story that would spread like wildfire.

▪ spread lies/gossip

How dare you spread such vicious lies!


Has someone been spreading malicious gossip?

▪ spread terror/panic

The murders were clearly intended to spread terror.

▪ fire spreads ( also flames spread )

The fire had spread to a nearby shed.

▪ violence/fighting spreads

There is no indication that the violence is likely to spread.

▪ sb’s fame/reputation spreads

Their musical fame has spread far beyond their native country.

■ adverbs

▪ spread rapidly/quickly

The fire spread rapidly, consuming many of the houses.

■ phrases

▪ spread like wildfire (=spread extremely quickly)

The news spread like wildfire through the town.

spread out phrasal verb

1 . if a group of people spread out, they move apart from each other so that they cover a wider area:

The search party spread out to search the surrounding fields.

2 . spread something ↔ out to open something out or arrange a group of things on a flat surface:

Sue spread out her notes on the kitchen table and began to write.

3 . ( also be spread out ) to cover a large area:

The city spread out below her looked so calm.

4 . spread something ↔ out to do something over a period of time, rather than at one time

spread something ↔ out over

The course is spread out over four days.

II. spread 2 BrE AmE noun

1 . INCREASE [singular] when something affects or is known about by more people or involves a larger area ⇨ increase

spread of

an attempt to stop the spread of nuclear weapons

the rapid spread of cholera in Latin America

2 . SOFT FOOD [uncountable and countable]

a) a soft substance made from vegetable oil that is used like butter:

one slice of toast with a low-fat spread

b) a soft food which you spread on bread

cheese/chocolate etc spread

3 . RANGE [singular] a range of people or things

wide/broad/good spread of something

We have a good spread of ages in the department.

a broad spread of investments

4 . AREA [singular] the total area in which something exists:

the geographical spread of the company’s hotels

5 . double-page spread/centre spread a special article or advertisement in a newspaper or magazine, which covers two pages or covers the centre pages:

There’s a double-page spread in Sunday’s paper.

6 . LARGE MEAL [singular] informal a large meal for several guests on a special occasion:

Tom’s mum laid on a huge spread.

7 . HAND/WINGS [uncountable] the area covered when the fingers of a hand, or a bird’s wings, are fully stretched

8 . BED COVER [countable] a ↑ bedspread

9 . MONEY [countable] technical the difference between the prices at which something is bought and sold, or the ↑ interest rates for lending and borrowing money

spread between

the spread between the city banks’ loan rates and deposit rates

10 . SPORT [singular] American English the number of points between the scores of two opposing teams:

a four-point spread

11 . spread of land/water an area of land or water

12 . FARM [countable] American English a large farm or ↑ ranch

⇨ middle-aged spread at ↑ middle-aged (3)

• • •


▪ farm an area of land, used for growing crops or keeping animals:

a 300-hectare farm


a dairy farm


a sheep farm

▪ ranch a very large farm in the western US, Canada, or South America where sheep, cattle, or horses are bred:

a cattle ranch in Wyoming

▪ smallholding British English a piece of land used for farming, that is smaller than an ordinary farm:

a smallholding used for organic farming

▪ plantation a large area of land in a hot country, where crops such as tea, cotton, and sugar are grown:

a rubber plantation


a tea plantation

▪ homestead a piece of land for farming that was given to people in the past by the US and Canadian governments:

He still farms on the family homestead, a hundred years after his grandfather received it.

▪ spread American English informal an area of land used for farming or ranching:

They have a pretty big spread just south of the Canadian border.

▪ market garden an area of land, often with ↑ greenhouse s on it, used for growing vegetables and fruit:

He runs his own market garden, and sells his produce to the big supermarkets.

▪ orchard an area of land with trees, used for growing fruit:

an apple orchard


cherry orchards

▪ allotment British English a small area of land of land, especially in a town or city, which you can use for growing your own vegetables.The land is usually owned by the local council, who charge a very low rent:

We grew the tomatoes on our allotment.

▪ agriculture the practice of farming:

More than 75% of the land is used for agriculture.

▪ arable adjective relating to growing crops:

a lack of arable land

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