Definition of spread in English:



  • 1[with object] Open out (something) so as to extend its surface area, width, or length:

    ‘I spread a towel on the sand and sat down’
    ‘she helped Colin to spread out the map’
    • ‘During such occasions it is usually the flag dancer who handles the flag or explains it in the presence of others in the company, who may help him spread it out.’
    lay out, open out, unfurl, unroll, roll out, shake out
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    1. 1.1 Stretch out (arms, legs, hands, fingers, or wings) so that they are far apart:
      [with object and complement] ‘Bobby spread his arms wide’
      • ‘In this work, filled with vigorous movement, the eagle rises with its wings spread across the width of the sheet, exhaling smoke as it drags a metal trap clamped to its talon and tied to a broken branch.’
      • ‘Their pudgy little hands are variously balled for punches, or raised in preparation for an opened-handed smack, fingers spread wide.’
      • ‘At times, Adamma leapt up in the air with knees still bent and spread her arms wide.’
      • ‘When it kicked at night and woke her, Emma spread her fingertips over the foreign swell that was her own body and imagined the baby spoke to her in a secret, atonal humming.’
      • ‘Radio 1 presenter Sara Cox spreads her legs and gets stuck into a skateboarding simulation.’
      • ‘His hands - fingers spread - graze the surface of the quiet water while his eyes, black and narrow, attest to the mystery of childhood.’
      • ‘An enormous phoenix emerges from this skeletal volcano and spreads its wings.’
      • ‘Upstairs on the third floor landing she is waiting for him, arms spread wide in greeting.’
      • ‘They fashion a diamond shape between them by spreading their legs slightly and joining the soles of their feet.’
      • ‘At the end, the entire cast advanced toward the audience, arms spread wide to envelop us in their Romantic reverie.’
      • ‘To make a roll, spread the fingers of the opposite hand wide apart and make them rigid.’
      • ‘Wings spread, it appears poised for flight, ready to soar over Lake Michigan, an opalescent blue in early summer.’
      • ‘She looks upward, her wide eyes and almost-open lips seeming vulnerable, her elegant fingers spread and wrists bent outward in front of her so that her hands frame the strong bones of her face.’
      • ‘Changing to tabletop position, place the palms of your hands - fingers spread, pointing away from the wall - where your heels were.’
      • ‘You saw it when he walked along the street, his arms spread wide.’
      • ‘They are spreading their bodies out, their weight is differently distributed.’
      • ‘And both men, talking to Marion, make a long, strong movement with their hands - Sam spreads both arms wide to agree with her, Norman's right arm will reach to a small, stuffed, nocturnal bird.’
  • 2[no object, with adverbial] Extend over a large or increasing area:

    ‘rain over north-west Scotland will spread south-east during the day’
    • ‘Belly hair spreads over the area between belly-button and top pants button.’
    • ‘This invasive weed from southeast Asia covers more than 7 million U.S. acres and spreads across about 120,000 more each year.’
    • ‘Disease then develops in the stalk and rapidly spreads up the stalk and into the leaves.’
    • ‘The appeal of football spreads wider yet and wider beyond the nation's boundaries.’
    • ‘From the mid-'80s on, the number of growers expanded and the retail service area spread up and down the West Coast from San Francisco to Seattle and inland as far as Bend.’
    • ‘Lavarack Barracks is bound to the south by the imposing outcrop of Mt Stuart, with its range of foothills, and spreads northwards across a flat plain to the east-west axis of University Drive.’
    • ‘Around them spreads not a desert but an opulent terrain.’
    grow, increase, escalate, advance, develop, broaden, expand, widen, proliferate, mushroom
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    1. 2.1spread out (of a group of people) move apart so as to cover a wider area:
      ‘the Marines spread out across the docks’
      • ‘‘Our group and the Florida team,’ Goolsby says, ‘are spreading out all over the globe to find the best biological controls to use against climbing fern.’’
      • ‘Poignantly stated and played, the two guitarists spread out and cover the space.’
      • ‘As the bodies spread apart and crowd back together, they resemble characters continually rearranging themselves into words and sentences.’
      • ‘The fleet spreads out over the sea and orders are given to raise the anchors and run the sails up the masts.’
      • ‘By spreading out, the band try to claim the stage, however with only ten performances under their belts, what lacks in self-assurance is certainly compensated for in mystifyingly thunderous guitars.’
      • ‘Each member of the family spreads out into the community where they encounter other people that are equally unhappy.’
    2. 2.2[with object and adverbial] Distribute or disperse (something) over an area:
      ‘volcanic eruptions spread dust high into the stratosphere’
      • ‘Manure can be spread as a solid or semi-solid in a box or flail spreader.’
      • ‘The living quarters and studio spaces are spread around these two main parts.’
      • ‘He began by collecting cow manure from the village, which he spread on his fields - an uncommon practice in the area.’
      • ‘Farmers commonly spread manure on their lands, a practice that often results in excess phosphorus being applied.’
      • ‘Frequently observed in connection with cabin groups is a tendency to spread the effects of their presence over a needlessly large area.’
      • ‘‘The wider the coverage, the less light the bulb projects because you are spreading the same amount of output over a larger area,’ explained Scott.’
      • ‘Livestock are grazed to maintain and enhance perennial plant communities and spread manure over the ground.’
      scatter, strew, disperse
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    3. 2.3 Gradually reach or cause to reach a wider area or more people:
      [no object] ‘the violence spread from the city centre to the suburbs’
      [with object] ‘she's always spreading rumours’
      • ‘And we, his children, simply by being his disciples and spreading the word, had became the first generation of kids to validate and popularize a comedy genius.’
      • ‘I just think it really spreads the word for our designs.’
      • ‘Surviving into his 90th year, he got nearly four decades, post-Warner, to spread the good word about classical cartooning and to hear quite a few thrown his way.’
      • ‘I am beginning to realize that one of my major beefs with mixing design and politics stems from celebrities using their platform to spread their propaganda.’
      • ‘But beware, there could be someone out there spreading impurities about our profession.’
      • ‘Already people are volunteering to work with him on it, and once word spreads it seems likely that Johnnie will have more cast and crew than he knows what to do with.’
      • ‘Moreover, most of these exhibitions are accompanied by major catalogues that confirm the status of these photographers while spreading their reputation still further.’
      • ‘There is merely an earnest desire to spread some Yuletide fun and to tell a straightforward story of devotion, determination, and delight.’
      • ‘So then, if the electorate is tending to think in and act on smaller and smaller (not to say, more concise) messages, why not spread the word on T-shirts?’
      • ‘It's about systematically spreading this cultural idea of artists and writers having a space where intellectual publics can work together.’
      • ‘The program is all about young people like Holder being trained to speak with brutal honesty, and then to spread the message to literally thousands of students that there is a way out of violence.’
      • ‘I note above the importance of textiles in spreading the message that the Mongols had created an empire.’
      • ‘In this way, they spread disease, plague, leprosy, typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, and so on.’
      • ‘Chuck a few flyers around select shops, harass the eardrums of certain people ‘in the know’ who will spread the word to the right people, then sit back and let the ensuing hype escalate.’
      • ‘Visitors from America, Australia, and Canada, and from Japan as well, received a lot of negative coverage of the disease in the media, and some people decided not to visit the UK to avoid spreading the infection.’
      • ‘When you do write criticism, are you looking for more notoriety, or to spread your opinions, or just to earn money, or is it something else?’
      • ‘This might be a good venue to spread your propaganda.’
      • ‘You're going to spread your gospel the best you can.’
      • ‘However, the conference definitely fulfilled its role of connecting people and spreading news, methods, and strategies.’
      • ‘These are all effective ways of spreading the good news.’
      disseminate, circulate, pass on, put about, communicate, diffuse, make public, make known, purvey, broadcast, publicize, propagate, promulgate
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    4. 2.4 (of people, animals, or plants) become distributed over a large or larger area:
      ‘the owls have spread as far north as Kuala Lumpur’
      • ‘In several areas, they have escaped the planting sites and have begun to spread and outcompete native plants.’
      • ‘Plant and animal species alien to our ecosystem are spreading at ever-increasing rates throughout the land.’
      • ‘I wrote saying that peacocks were a very good thing, and that wild ones were spreading across Somerset.’
      • ‘Such corridors allow links between ecologically protected areas, so that plants and animals can spread from one to another and form a network.’
      • ‘In tact, climbing fern is spreading so rapidly that it's now the state's worst invasive weed.’
      • ‘They use a rotation schedule in rooms, separating new bags from older ones, so that pests don't spread.’
      • ‘He hoped the roots would harbor the fungi and spread them throughout the compost, but the fungi didn't spread well enough.’
      • ‘‘This perennial garden plant has become a noxious weed and is spreading rapidly throughout North America,’ says Farr.’
    5. 2.5[with object and adverbial] Distribute in a specified way:
      ‘you can spread the payments over as long a period as you like’
      • ‘In fairness, he spreads his venom equally between her and the other subjects of his book.’
      • ‘Splitting the gig up into an acoustic and an electric set gave them the opportunity to spread the gig over two hours.’
  • 3[with object and adverbial] Apply (a substance) to an object or surface in an even layer:

    ‘he sighed, spreading jam on a croissant’
    • ‘The 3D printer spreads one thin layer of powder over the print bed, then passes over the powder just as an inkjet printer head passes over paper.’
    smear, daub, plaster, slather, lather, apply, put
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    1. 3.1 Cover (a surface) with a substance in an even layer:
      ‘spread each slice thinly with mayonnaise’
      cover, coat, layer, daub, smother
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    2. 3.2[no object, with adverbial] Be able to be applied in an even layer:
      ‘a tub of unsalted butter that spreads so well’
      • ‘New Land O'Lakes Spreadable Butter with Canola oil is ready to spread right out of the refrigerator, with no need to soften.’
  • 4archaic [with object] Lay (a table) for a meal.

    • ‘On November 25, 2003, we sat down with family and friends around a table spread with food we grew and said thanks.’


  • 1[mass noun] The fact or process of spreading over an area:

    ‘the spread of AIDS’
    ‘the spread of the urban population into rural areas’
    • ‘Live bird markets have also played a role in the spread of epidemics.’
    • ‘This knowledge is key to checking the spread of the disease and eradicating it from infected areas.’
    • ‘New measures to help prevent the spread of Avian Influenza have been agreed by the European Commission.’
    • ‘If plant pulling is not feasible, flower head removal helps reduce the spread of the seeds.’
    • ‘This feed is thought to have been responsible for the spread of BSE among cattle.’
    • ‘In order to stop the fire's rapid spread, which was being fanned by strong easterly winds, King Charles II ordered that all houses in the fire's path be blown up or pulled down.’
    • ‘It is not yet known whether consumer resistance to GM food crops, such as rice, wheat, and food maize will be an obstacle to the spread of those crops.’
    • ‘Working with the fungus in noninfected areas is restricted to guard against potential spread.’
    • ‘With the emergence and spread of AIDS in Japan in the 1980s, insensitivity toward gay men heightened.’
    • ‘For decades, the UN has led efforts to control the development and spread of such weapons.’
    • ‘By a skilful use of maps and charts the author traces the development and spread of various religious movements, from the early Spanish Franciscans to the latest absurd creation.’
    • ‘A more material reason for the recent spread of campus farms is probably the rise of community-supported agriculture.’
    • ‘The rise and spread of theory was just one development.’
    • ‘Fungicides can be applied when disease symptoms first appear to reduce their spread.’
    • ‘The spread of journalism also created new problems for the authorities.’
    • ‘Therefore, removal of a tree killed by pine wilt is essential to limit the spread of this disease.’
    • ‘In other words, precautionary killings to prohibit the spread of infection are becoming commonplace.’
    • ‘Fortunately, researchers have discovered different strategies to control the spread of the virus.’
    • ‘But years of heavy rains in the area following the formation of the co-op caused the spread of a plant blight known as scab.’
    • ‘To prevent the spread of potential disease, all eggs should come from the same source.’
    expansion, proliferation, extension, growth, mushrooming, increase, escalation, buildout, advance, advancement, development
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  • 2The extent, width, or area covered by something:

    ‘the male's antlers can attain a spread of six feet’
    • ‘The planting hole should be larger than the spread of the root mass.’
    span, width, extent, stretch, reach
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    1. 2.1 The wingspan of a bird:
      ‘the red-tailed hawk has a four-and-a-half-foot spread’
    2. 2.2 An expanse or amount of something:
      ‘the green spread of the park’
      expanse, area, sweep, stretch
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  • 3The range or variety of something:

    ‘a wide spread of ages’
    • ‘Maybe that means greater audience spread and fewer must-see shows.’
    • ‘Faces in the Crowd offers a wonderfully various and intelligently chosen spread of images.’
    range, span, spectrum, sweep
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    1. 3.1 The difference between two rates or prices:
      ‘the very narrow spread between borrowing and deposit rates’
      • ‘This should narrow the spread among grape and wine prices so evident in the 1990s.’
      • ‘Fluctuations in price spreads suggest relative variation in consumer demand and cattle supply entering the food chain.’
      • ‘The study will look at retail prices, price spreads and movement of livestock markets.’
      • ‘This is mainly because of the larger gains in rollover spreads.’
      • ‘Financial industry debt spreads were widening meaningfully as well.’
    2. 3.2
      short for point spread
  • 4A soft paste that can be applied in a layer to bread or other food:

    [in combination] ‘low-fat spreads’
    [mass noun] ‘cheese spread’
    • ‘Process cheese can be coaxed into shapes or spreads and also is a featured ingredient in many other food products.’
    • ‘In large part, that's due to scientific findings on the dangers of trans-fatty acids, prevalent in most margarines and spreads.’
    • ‘Butter processors are keeping a close eye on this new sub-category to determine if there's enough interest to add a similar spread to their own product lines.’
    • ‘It's thought to be a beneficial fat and, in these analyses, ranged from 19 percent in one of the store brands to 27 percent in one of the natural-type spreads.’
    • ‘Processed cheese food and processed cheese spread include additional ingredients such as dairy proteins and/or gums.’
    • ‘For pasteurized cheese spreads, the trend is to reduce cheese solids and add dairy solids such as whey protein.’
    • ‘But these spreads came with their own set of usability problems, particularly when it came to cooking or baking.’
    • ‘It helped boost sales of cheese spreads by more than 600 percent.’
    • ‘The cheese might be intended for individual slices, blocks or loaves for shredding, spreads, sauces, fillings, pastes or as industrial food ingredients.’
    • ‘According to product claims, these spreads lower cholesterol by as much as 10 to 14 percent.’
    • ‘Products manufactured across the board include butter, dry and cultured products, spreads, cheese and cheese sauces.’
    • ‘Fay says he has seen the introduction this year of more peripheral items, such as cheese spreads.’
    • ‘Retailers can sell more bagels and bread with the spread at a convenient reach, creating an impulse purchase.’
    • ‘These spreads do not contain trans fatty acids.’
    • ‘Adding a gum system to processed cheese spreads or artificial cheese products helps modify textural difficulties and helps the end product maintain desirable functional properties.’
    • ‘Today's cheese and cheese spreads boast flavors that go far beyond the traditional smoke and bacon.’
    • ‘Do not eat refrigerated pates or meat spreads.’
    • ‘Touted for their cholesterol-lowering properties, phytosterols are found in commercially prepared margarines and spreads.’
    • ‘In the spreads category, Lactoprot is developing upscale, high-end flavor profiles with cheese spreads in flavor combinations such as pepper and bacon or cheddar and smoked turkey.’
    • ‘Several others are use patents for direct incorporation into human foods as ingredients or spreads.’
  • 5An article or advertisement covering several columns or pages of a newspaper or magazine, especially one on two facing pages:

    ‘a double-page spread’
    • ‘It owes something to the magazine page, the studio shot, and the fashion spread.’
    • ‘The book dummies, storyboards, jacket covers, and double page spreads were proudly displayed, still smelling strongly of glue and fixatives.’
    • ‘Most ineffective was a large section of the exhibit in which framed spreads from the magazines jutted out from the wall.’
    • ‘Segal recently signed artist David Mann, who is well known for his recurring spreads in Easyriders magazine, to put out limited-edition prints from his original paintings.’
    • ‘But in the end, House & Garden got the nod, running an eight-page spread in the February issue.’
    • ‘Magazine spreads were next, then adult films, then drugs.’
    • ‘The glacially cool images were published in the fashion spreads of such magazines as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar in New York and Caballero in Mexico City.’
    • ‘He engages the entire article, not merely the flashy opening spread.’
    • ‘He has the appearance and acting talent of a male underwear model lifted from a magazine spread.’
    • ‘Why was this a great spread in Vanity Fair, or in Smithsonian or National Geographic?’
    • ‘Printed as double-page spreads, the 47 photos are accompanied by poems and short stories selected by the artist to reflect her watery theme.’
    • ‘Running as part of an extensive magazine spread, the newspaper speculated that Foster was about to become Britain's first sidewalk surfing tycoon.’
    • ‘Additionally, Seventeen will run spreads in two issues touting the program.’
    • ‘The Guardian's pages, on the other hand, though reduced in size, still feel big and expansive when you are looking at a spread and the quality of the design obviously helps here.’
    • ‘Each building is presented in a double-page spread, with a brief descriptive text, an image or two and, of course, the plans, sections and elevations of the title.’
    • ‘All the covers are faithfully reproduced here, together with page layouts and spreads.’
    • ‘Recent runways and magazine spreads have featured luscious florals from Dolce & Gabbana, Bill Blass, Christian Lacroix and Prada.’
    • ‘There are, however, several colored double-page spreads on which she has ‘hung’ her images.’
    • ‘And then we see Double Game's final two pages: a color spread of Calle's smile.’
    • ‘Nevertheless, he does show how Jeff Miller's student color studies became the foundation for three Speak magazine spreads.’
  • 6informal A large and impressively elaborate meal:

    ‘his mother laid on a huge spread’
    • ‘Fiftyish, 350-pound art dealers in suits ‘eat’ huge banquet spreads, gorging themselves with the sloppy abandon of famished Vikings, only to discover the food is merely a hallucination.’
    • ‘The organizer of the event promises laughter and ‘a good spread of food and drink.’’
    • ‘Empty tummies don't make for a productive workforce so call in your mother or a friend to act as catering manager and do a spread rather than forking out at the chip shop.’
    • ‘Yes, she's gone to an awful lot of trouble to assemble all your favourite people and prepare a lavish spread.’
    elaborate meal, large meal, feast, banquet, repast
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  • 7North American A large farm or ranch.

  • 8North American A bedspread:

    ‘a patchwork spread’
    • ‘She covered his body with the chenille spread and went inside to phone the undertaker.’
    bedspread, bedcover, cover, coverlet, throw, afghan
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  • spread like wildfire

    • Spread with great speed:

      ‘the news had spread like wildfire’
      • ‘If they come across something good, word of mouth spreads like wildfire.’
      • ‘As odd as it might seem, the idea catches on and spreads like wildfire.’
      • ‘Sushi joints have been spreading like wildfire over the past few years, usurping the spots where short-lived soup and noodle places once stood and almost hoisting maki and sashimi into food-group status.’
      • ‘Although the internet has dominated the discussion and study of new technologies, mobile telephony is the innovation that seems to be spreading like wildfire around the globe.’
      • ‘This group relies heavily on word-of-mouth to decide where to go next - and the word spreads like wildfire.’
      • ‘Normally such riots on such an emotive issue would spread like wildfire across the country.’
      • ‘China won't fully open its financial markets until the global community comes up with a workable mechanism that can contain financial disasters and prevent them from spreading like wildfire.’
      • ‘Distance learning is spreading like wildfire.’
      • ‘Experts say it spreads like wildfire with schools, nursing homes, hospitals and work places expected to be particularly badly hit.’
      • ‘Sometimes it's word of mouth, playground chat that spreads like wildfire.’
      grow unchecked, grow profusely, run riot, spread like wildfire, ramble, straggle
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  • spread oneself too thin

    • Be involved in so many different activities that one's time and energy are not used to good effect.

      • ‘Sadly, even Jones realised you can spread yourself too thin, often leading to poor choices.’
      • ‘We were able to meet the needs of a customer without bringing on more employees, spreading ourselves too thin or charging too much.’
      • ‘As awesome as it is to be the girl who does it all, spreading yourself too thin will only leave you overstressed and underproductive.’
      • ‘My colleagues sense this struggle, and often caution me about spreading myself too thin.’
      • ‘But it can't do that effectively if it spread itself too thin.’
      • ‘There is a sense of having spread ourselves too thin.’
      • ‘If morale and motivation are poor, consider the possibility that you are simply spreading yourself too thin.’
      • ‘Both have formed partnerships with larger companies in order to take on big projects without spreading themselves too thin.’
      • ‘Do you worry about spreading yourself too thin?’
      • ‘But I'm reading scripts all the time, because it is something that I would like to do, but I'm aware of spreading myself too thin.’
  • spread one's wings


Old English -sprǣdan (used in combinations), of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch spreiden and German spreiten.