verb (used with object), spread, spread·ing.

  1. to draw, stretch, or open out, especially over a flat surface, as something rolled or folded (often followed by out).
  2. to stretch out or unfurl in the air, as folded wings, a flag, etc. (often followed by out).
  3. to distribute over a greater or a relatively great area of space or time (often followed by out): to spread out the papers on the table.
  4. to display or exhibit the full extent of; set out in full: He spread the pots on the ground and started hawking his wares.
  5. to dispose or distribute in a sheet or layer: to spread hay to dry.
  6. to apply in a thin layer or coating: to spread butter on a slice of bread.
  7. to overlay or cover with something: She spread the blanket over her knees.
  8. to set or prepare (a table), as for a meal.
  9. to extend or distribute over a region, place, period of time, among a group, etc.
  10. to send out, scatter, or shed in various directions, as sound, light, etc.
  11. to scatter abroad; diffuse or disseminate, as knowledge, news, disease, etc.: to spread the word of the gospel.
  12. to move or force apart: He spread his arms over his head in surrender.
  13. to flatten out: to spread the end of a rivet by hammering.
  14. Phonetics.
    1. to extend the aperture between (the lips) laterally, so as to reduce it vertically, during an utterance.
    2. to delabialize.Compare round1(def 55c), unround.

verb (used without object), spread, spread·ing.

  1. to become stretched out or extended, as a flag in the wind; expand, as in growth.
  2. to extend over a greater or a considerable area or period: The factory spread along the river front.
  3. to be or lie outspread or fully extended or displayed, as a landscape or scene.
  4. to admit of being spread or applied in a thin layer, as a soft substance: Margarine spreads easily.
  5. to become extended or distributed over a region, as population, animals, plants, etc.
  6. to become shed abroad, diffused, or disseminated, as light, influences, rumors, ideas, infection, etc.
  7. to be forced apart, as the rails of a railroad track; separate.


  1. an act or instance of spreading: With a spread of her arms the actress acknowledged the applause.
  2. expansion, extension, or diffusion: the spread of consumerism.
  3. the extent of spreading: to measure the spread of branches.
  4. Finance.
    1. the difference between the prices bid and asked of stock or a commodity for a given time.
    2. a type of straddle in which the call price is placed above and the put price is placed below the current market quotation.
    3. the difference between any two prices or rates for related costs: the widening spread between lending and borrowing costs.
    4. Stock Exchange.a broker’s profit or the difference between his or her buying and selling price.
    5. any difference between return on assets and costs of liabilities.
  5. capacity for spreading: the spread of an elastic material.
  6. a distance or range, as between two points or dates: The long-distance movers planned a five-day spread between pickup and delivery.
  7. a stretch, expanse, or extent of something: a spread of timber.
  8. a cloth covering for a bed, table, or the like, especially a bedspread.
  9. Informal. an abundance of food set out on a table; feast.
  10. any food preparation for spreading on bread, crackers, etc., as jam or peanut butter.
  11. Aeronautics. wingspan.
  12. Also called layout. Journalism. (in newspapers and magazines) an extensive, varied treatment of a subject, consisting primarily either of a number of cuts (picture spread) or of a major story and several supplementary stories, usually extending across three or more columns.Compare double truck.
  13. an advertisement, photograph, article, or the like, covering several columns, a full page, or two facing pages of a newspaper, magazine, book, etc.: a full-page spread; a two-page spread.
  14. two facing pages, as of a newspaper, magazine, or book.
  15. landed property, as a farm or ranch.
  16. lay1(def 40).
  17. point spread.


  1. Jewelry. (of a gem) cut with the table too large and the crown too shallow for maximum brilliance; swindled.
  2. Phonetics. (of the opening between the lips) extended laterally.Compare rounded(def 2), unrounded.
  1. spread oneself thin, to carry on so many projects simultaneously that none is done adequately, or that one’s health suffers: Many college students spread themselves thin by taking on too many activities during the semester.

verb spreads, spreading or spread

  1. to extend or unfold or be extended or unfolded to the fullest widthshe spread the map on the table
  2. to extend or cause to extend over a larger expanse of space or timethe milk spread all over the floor; the political unrest spread over several years
  3. to apply or be applied in a coatingbutter does not spread very well when cold
  4. to distribute or be distributed over an area or region
  5. to display or be displayed in its fullest extentthe landscape spread before us
  6. (tr) to prepare (a table) for a meal
  7. (tr) to lay out (a meal) on a table
  8. to send or be sent out in all directions; disseminate or be disseminatedsomeone has been spreading rumours; the disease spread quickly
  9. (of rails, wires, etc) to force or be forced apart
  10. to increase the breadth of (a part), esp to flatten the head of a rivet by pressing, hammering, or forging
  11. (tr) agriculture
    1. to lay out (hay) in a relatively thin layer to dry
    2. to scatter (seed, manure, etc) over a relatively wide area
  12. (tr often foll by around) informal to make (oneself) agreeable to a large number of people, often of the opposite sex
  13. phonetics to narrow and lengthen the aperture of (the lips) as for the articulation of a front vowel, such as () in English see (siː)


  1. the act or process of spreading; diffusion, dispersal, expansion, etcthe spread of the Christian religion
  2. informal the wingspan of an aircraft
  3. an extent of space or time; stretcha spread of 50 years
  4. informal, mainly US and Canadian a ranch or relatively large tract of land
  5. the limit of something fully extendedthe spread of a bird’s wings
  6. a covering for a table or bed
  7. informal a large meal or feast, esp when it is laid out on a table
  8. a food which can be spread on bread, etcsalmon spread
  9. two facing pages in a book or other publication
  10. a widening of the hips and waistmiddle-age spread
  11. stock exchange
    1. the difference between the bid and offer prices quoted by a market maker
    2. the excess of the price at which stock is offered for public sale over the price paid for the same stock by an underwriter
    3. mainly USa double optionCompare straddle (def. 9)
  12. jewellery the apparent size of a gemstone when viewed from above expressed in caratsa diamond with a spread of four carats


  1. extended or stretched out, esp to the fullest extent
  2. (of a gem) shallow and flat
  3. phonetics
    1. (of the lips) forming a long narrow aperture
    2. (of speech sounds) articulated with spread lips( ) in English “feel” is a spread vowel

c.1200, “to stretch out, to send in various directions,” probably from Old English -sprædan (especially in tosprædan “to spread out,” and gesprædung “spreading”), from Proto-Germanic *spraidijanan (cf. Danish sprede, Old Swedish spreda, Middle Dutch spreiden, Old High German and German spreiten “to spread”), probably from PIE *sper- “to strew” (see sprout (v.)). Reflexive sense of “to extend, expand” is attested from mid-14c.


1690s, “extent or expanse of something,” from spread (v.). Meaning “copious meal” dates from 1822; sense of “food for spreading” (butter, jam, etc.) is from 1812. Sense of “bed cover” is recorded from 1848, originally American English. Meaning “degree of variation” is attested from 1929. Meaning “ranch for raising cattle” is attested from 1927.

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