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spread - definition and synonyms


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verb spread pronunciation in American English /spred/
Word Forms
present tense
present participlespreading
past tensespread
past participlespread
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  1. 1
    [intransitive] to gradually affect or cover a larger area
    UN leaders hope to prevent the fighting from spreading.
    Rain will spread from the west this evening.
    Anti-globalization protests spread rapidly across the globe.
    Within less than an hour, the fire had spread to the fuel stores.
    She heard a shot, then saw a dark-red stain spreading across his shirt.
  2. 2
    [intransitive/transitive] if a disease spreads, or if something spreads it, it affects more people as it is passed from one person to another
    Cholera spread quickly through the refugee camp.
    Soldiers returning from the war soon spread the disease through most of the region.
    a computer virus that spread rapidly through users’ e-mail systems
  3. 3



    spread out

    [transitive] to open something that is folded so that it covers a surface
    spread something on/over something: We spread the blanket on the grass and sat down on it.
    The map was spread on the floor.
  4. 4
    [intransitive/transitive] to cover a surface with a thin layer of a soft food
    Butter spreads more easily when it hasn’t been in the refrigerator.
    spread something on something: Maureen spread jam on her toast.
    spread something with something: First, spread the bread with mayonnaise.
  5. 5
    [transitive] to divide and share work or obligations among several people
    We will bring in extra staff to spread the workload.
    1. a.
      [transitive] to divide an amount of money that you owe into parts and pay it in several installments instead of all at one time
      spread something over something: You can spread your payments over two, three, or five years.
    2. b.



      spread out

      [transitive] [usually passive] to make something happen at several times during a long period instead of all at once
      Attacks of the illness were spread over a three-year period.
    3. c.
      [transitive] if you spread a risk, you invest in several different things so that if one fails, you do not lose everything
      Smythe spread his financial risk by investing in a wide range of businesses.
  6. 6
    [intransitive/transitive] [usually passive] to be present in many parts of a large area
    be spread over/across something: There are 54 community colleges spread across California.
    Indonesia is a nation of over 200 million people, spread over 17,000 islands.
  7. 7
    [transitive] to give information to many people
    Someone has been spreading nasty rumors about Stella’s private life.
    1. a.
      [intransitive] if information spreads, it becomes known by more people than before
      spread to: News of the attack has already spread to the islands.
  8. 8



    spread out

    [transitive] to move your arms, legs, or hands so that they are far apart
    First, lie on the floor with your arms spread wide.
    1. a.
      to open something wide
      The bird spread its wings and flew away.
  9. 9
    [transitive] to cause a lot of people to have a particular feeling
    Smiling at people was Debra’s way of spreading a little happiness.
    A gang of drug dealers was spreading terror in the neighborhood.


phrasal verbs


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an ancient Roman system of underfloor heating, used to heat houses with hot air; from the Latin 'hypocaustum'

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