Definition of tread water in English:

tread water


  • 1Maintain an upright position in deep water by moving the feet with a walking movement and the hands with a downward circular motion.

    ‘they were at the deep end of the pool and trod water to keep afloat’
    • ‘As part of his basic training Kevin had to swim 200 metres and tread water for two minutes.’
    • ‘As Trey notes, to be certified for diving you have to swim two hundred yards and tread water for ten minutes.’
    • ‘Her head popped up from under the water and she laughed, treading water as he walked through the waves out to her.’
    • ‘She emerged from her dive and started treading water as she turned herself around to look at the room.’
    • ‘The skipper treads water as a Navy diver waits for a line to be thrown from the Oryx helicopter.’
    • ‘He said the fisherman had probably damaged his arms and legs badly as he had been unable to swim or tread water and described him as being ‘a minute away from death’.’
    • ‘I tried to catch my breath, maniacally treading water like a child learning how to swim.’
    • ‘But I began to tire, and I realised that if I rested and trod water, I would undo all the progress I had made.’
    • ‘He had been swimming and had started treading water when he started getting into difficulties.’
    • ‘We were treading water in a large water basin in a generator room.’
    1. 1.1 Fail to make progress.
      ‘men who are treading water in their careers’
      • ‘So what could have been a quirky sleeper hit like There's Something About Mary, basically treads water for 90 minutes, then sinks.’
      • ‘We are treading water but have increased recruits by a very small percentage.’
      • ‘Brando trod water a lot, so I might go for Mitchum.’
      • ‘With a 10th win in 11 league games assured, the Old Trafford aristocrats trod water slightly after the interval.’
      • ‘His tendency to fall into the same sing-songy patterns and rhythms is disappointing, and his meditations on overdone subjects, like his musings on church, for example, sound like he's treading water.’
      • ‘He treads water for a few more minutes and sputters out a handful of other fun winter facts.’
      • ‘So when you see the elites floating away in their yachts while you're barely treading water, before you get angry, take a moment to feel their pain.’
      • ‘As Maloney treads water, others are catching up.’
      • ‘The plot treads water and most of the gags are so achingly obvious, you'll be hard pushed to even smile.’
      • ‘The real problem is that the rhetoric currently focused on the band either treads water too obviously or overreaches in apparent hipness.’