Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

lead1 - definition and synonyms

What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

Thesaurus diagram

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

noun     lead pronunciation in American English
Word Forms
  1. 1
    [singular] the first position at a particular time during a race or competition

    He regained his lead in the final lap of the race.

    in the lead (=winning):

    The latest polls show the Democratic candidate in the lead.

    have/hold the lead (=be winning):

    The Packers have the lead after the first quarter.

    1. a.
      [singular] the distance, amount of time, number of points, etc. by which someone is winning a race or competition

      a narrow lead

      They increased their lead by three points on the next play.

      have a lead of:

      The Spanish rider has a lead of 35 seconds over his nearest rival.

  2. 2
    [countable] the main part for an actor in a play, movie, or television show
    play the lead (in something):

    She’s playing the lead in her school play.

    1. a.
      [countable] the main actor in a play, movie, or television show
      the male/female lead:

      Glenn Close was chosen as the female lead.

    2. b.
      [only before noun] a lead singer, dancer, guitar, etc. is the main singer, dancer, guitar player, etc. in a group
  3. 3
    [countable] a piece of information that may help someone to solve a problem or to find out the truth about something, especially a crime
  4. 4
    [countable] an action that is an example for someone to copy
    follow someone’s lead:

    North Korea is to follow China’s lead in attracting foreign capital and expertise.

  5. 5
    [countable] the most important story on the front page of a newspaper, or the first piece of news on a news broadcast

    the lead on all of today’s front pages

    a lead story:

    It was the lead story on the evening news.

  6. 6
    [singular] the management or leadership of an organization or company

    She took over the lead of the corporation after her father’s death.

  7. 7
    [countable] mainly British a leash for a dog
  • Facebook
  • Twitter


a lifestyle focussing on simple pleasures such as comfort and cosiness in the home, and spending time with friends and family

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary


a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

add a word


A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog
Macmillan learn live love play