Definition of tread in US English:



  • 1no object, with adverbial Walk in a specified way.

    figurative ‘the administration had to tread carefully so as not to offend the judiciary’
    ‘he trod lightly, trying to make as little contact with the mud as possible’
    • ‘"I really don't know, sir, " Ryan replied slowly, treading cautiously on this ground.’
    • ‘She followed behind him, treading lightly on the ground.’
    • ‘Participants are instructed in the ‘correct’ ways to engage with people of other cultural groups and how to tread carefully around their different values.’
    • ‘So, our extra-terrestrial analyst might warn that it should tread carefully when attempting to ease the burden on those with substantial childcare costs.’
    • ‘My bare feet tread lightly on the dirt floor, sweat already beginning to bead on my brow.’
    • ‘Also, stomping all over the place in your street shoes where others tread barefoot is a health hazard.’
    • ‘It's also clear to see how Amanda's brief motocross career prepared her for making strides in sports where women have to tread carefully so not to step on macho male toes.’
    • ‘Moreover, there was also a concern in 1988 to tread carefully with interest rate rises for fear of triggering a re-run of the October 1987 stock market plunge.’
    • ‘When there is no sound coming from Mayo it is time to tread warily.’
    • ‘But private investors should still tread carefully.’
    • ‘And so she did, treading gingerly into the deep carpet at first.’
    • ‘New works need to tread carefully to avoid the homeless genre clichés of yore, or fall into the agit-prop trap of substituting earnestness for drama.’
    • ‘Kick off your shoes, tread lightly across the shagpile, snap open a Babycham, ease back in your Parker Knoll recliner and smooch your way through this little lot like the silky smooth operator you know you can be.’
    • ‘But in a case like this, they have an obligation to tread with the utmost care.’
    • ‘With energetic Mars and changeable Uranus in your home sector all month, tread carefully when dealing with housemates.’
    • ‘She also advised them to tread carefully ‘for you can offend people if you don't do things the right way.’’
    • ‘In the face of these foreboding signs of very troubled times, it is difficult to imagine why governments in the Caribbean, and more so ours, are rushing in where fools tread carefully.’
    • ‘You tread carefully, avoiding the tiger-skin carpet.’
    • ‘I have to tread carefully, because certain persons who might claim to have been there too are liable to be up in arms the moment I stray more than an inch from the truth.’
    • ‘Until then, the lesser nations have to tread warily and negotiate with wisdom.’
    walk, step, stride, pace, go
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1tread onBritish Set one's foot down on top of.
      • ‘I trod on broken glass and after they had gone I followed them through the window to see which way they had gone.’
      • ‘Terry fell and trod on my feet so I got room to shoot.’
      • ‘The soldiers, treading on Rowdon's bare feet, forced him from the inn and into the frozen night.’
      • ‘In fact, Ronaldo was pushed backwards and trod on my foot.’
      • ‘He sidled round and trod on someone else's foot.’
      • ‘I'd accidentally trod on her foot in my haste to get inside.’
      • ‘I tread on his foot to get him going, so we're on our way out, and another ten per cent comes off.’
      • ‘As he recovered himself, he trod on his companion's foot.’
      • ‘All bullies are victims, they all tread on others to make themselves feel safer, and once Alex seemed impermeable she was the must-have friend and defender.’
      • ‘To the eye of ordinary vigilance, the bundle is abandoned waste, which may be kicked or trod on with impunity.’
      • ‘Dotted throughout the landscape are land mines, buried for unwary feet to tread on.’
      • ‘When they finished they stayed where they were, contorted into some sort of acceptable form of non-physical contact with those around them, and slept as best they could on aged colored carpet trod on by millions before them.’
      • ‘Her foot was swollen after she trod on a rusty nail and she said she needed a tetanus shot.’
      • ‘But the designer decided to withdraw the shoes over fears they could become a lethal weapon if the wearer accidentally trod on someone else's foot, the Daily Telegraph reported.’
      • ‘I could say it's because I must inflict terrible things on you because you trod on a snail in your past life, said snail being an incarnation of god on Earth, and I am an agent of the cosmic balance.’
      • ‘Nowadays it would seem to be treading on dangerous ground, especially for an innocent victim.’
      • ‘When I woke up at seven I felt I'd just trod on a rake.’
      • ‘Without noticing the cold tiles beneath my feet, I accidentally trod on one of the drops.’
      • ‘It made me feel most perturbed: this is London after all, and any contact with fellow passengers on public transport should be restricted to a muttered ‘sorry’ as you have your toes trod on or your bag sat upon.’
      • ‘But it's very difficult on Carnac Island to move more than three feet without treading on a seagull chick.’
    2. 1.2with object Walk on or along.
      ‘shoppers will soon be treading the floors of the new shopping mall’
      • ‘With a heavy heart and heavier feet I trod the path to my mother's gates, and called out to the guards.’
      • ‘For three years or so the squares lay open, and their sacred turf was trodden by the feet of working-class children, a sight to make dividend-drawers gnash their false teeth.’
      • ‘Treading this fine line will be a difficult challenge in the months ahead.’
      • ‘During Lent, Christians reflect on the life of a bloke who trod the Earth as a humble carpenter and who surrounded himself with other average blokes, fishermen and the like.’
      • ‘It's been months since I was able to walk in rough country, haven't trod the farm paths over to Washford or across to the cliffs this year at all.’
      • ‘This left him treading a narrow path along which private control and economic incentives might be preserved and yet society could obtain its full due by the complete expropriation of Ricardian rent.’
      • ‘But I hope to show they embody beauty because of the way they have spent their days walking paths trodden by their grandparents.’
      • ‘I carefully tread the hundred or so feet of concrete out into the water, and sit down at the end.’
      • ‘A solitary figure walks slowly, treading the edge where grass meets dust.’
      • ‘You're right, though, I am treading a rather thin line here.’
      • ‘In this regard, the resolution of the parliamentary faction treads a veritable tightrope.’
      • ‘You have to forge along, carefully treading a new way, trusting that your sense of direction has you going toward the right destination.’
      • ‘When we trod this land, we walk for one reason… to try to help another man think for himself.’
      • ‘A ministry spokesman said: ‘We have trodden a careful line with the message over foot and mouth and tourism.’’
      • ‘They are also aware, however, of those whose feet have trod the path before, of other historians' accounts and arguments.’
      • ‘He had chosen the candidate, trod the turf, pressed the flesh and personalised events wherever possible.’
      • ‘The reason that this case is a sad waste of an opportunity to examine the thin line between public accountability and privacy trodden by the press is that it's not a real fight.’
      • ‘Hedges effectively treads the tightrope between comedy and drama without veering too far in either direction.’
      • ‘Mainstream commercial radio has learned to walk that plank, treading a fine line between camaraderie and controversy.’
      • ‘Their art treads a perilous tightrope and I think they've just fallen off.’
    3. 1.3with object Press down into the ground or another surface with the feet.
      ‘food and cigarette butts had been trodden into the carpet’
      • ‘It saved hay, both because of the admixture of straw and because the waste from hay being dropped and trodden into the litter was avoided.’
      • ‘Sixteen dead fish were trodden into the floor along with the contents of the sand tray.’
      • ‘And if you're worried about food being trodden into the carpet, why not try an ‘indoors picnic’ where a tablecloth is laid on the floor and the children sit on it.’
      • ‘Leaves were being trodden into the ground, making it slushy and wet.’
      • ‘There's no telling with the dratted things but they cling to life with a tenacity not unlike chewing gum trodden into carpet pile and it's more likely that it'll spring into life somewhere around the end of April, beginning of May.’
      • ‘Noz's flat was soothingly casual - clothes, dishes and mugs everywhere and Parmesan cheese trodden into the carpet.’
      • ‘I thought about warning his parents - I hated to think of that gum being trodden into their own carpets when they got home - but I had decided not to interfere once and it would be hypocritical for me to do so now.’
      • ‘Perhaps, one day, one wet season, nine millennia ago, a piece of cut cane fell from a platform and was trodden into the mud by somebody hurrying to outrun the rain as it roared up the hill, stripping leaves from the trees as it came.’
      • ‘Because Christian monuments were of little concern to early archaeologists, objects were trodden into the earth, covered by sandstorms, or used for garden decorations.’
      • ‘The burnt match and calendar ashes lay forgotten on the carpet being trodden in by running feet as she skids through the house to answer the angrily buzzing telephone.’
      • ‘If we care so much about our town's image, how come there is chewing gum trodden into the costly paving in Victoria Square and all sorts of cans, cartons and stray rubbish littering our streets?’
      • ‘A look along the pavements in the streets of most of our town centres reveals unsightly patches where chewing gum has been dropped and trodden into the ground.’
    4. 1.4with object and adverbial Crush or flatten something with the feet.
      ‘the snow had been trodden down by the horses’
      ‘she stood on the floor of trodden earth’
      • ‘He didn't give the mess a second glance, and wandered off, treading crushed peanuts underfoot.’
      • ‘After harvesting the crop, the plants were trodden beneath the feet of horses, cattle or (as described in Deuteronomy) oxen to remove the grain from the ear.’
      • ‘How can there be any new ideas in this world if we forever take the paths trodden into mush?’
      • ‘Crops are being mysteriously trodden down by unknown forces.’
      • ‘"My grapes have been trodden with great care, " he said in broken English.’
      • ‘Crushing was traditionally done by foot, by treading grapes thinly spread on a crushing floor slanted towards a drain and bounded by low walls to prevent the loss of juice.’
      • ‘There are some traditional vineyards where grapes are still trodden by foot.’
      • ‘They were trodden down by churchmen and nobility alike.’
      • ‘One other member was overheard saying, ‘The people who trod these grapes hadn't washed their feet.’’
      • ‘As soon as they have thawed in the morning they are trodden with bare feet so that the skin remains intact but the fluid resulting from cell rupture is extruded.’
      • ‘At some quintas, grapes are still trodden by foot in shallow stone troughs.’
      • ‘Hither came Conan to tread the jeweled thrones of earth under his sandaled feet.’
      crush, flatten, press down, squash
      View synonyms


  • 1in singular A manner or the sound of someone walking.

    ‘I heard the heavy tread of Dad's boots’
    • ‘Then there was one brief wild rush, the ground shaking under the tread of cattle and horses.’
    • ‘Then she heard the soft tread of paws running towards the encampment full speed.’
    • ‘She quickly recognized the heavy tread of her father and straightened her spine in response.’
    • ‘Finally, she heard the soft tread of two pairs of feet.’
    • ‘As he continued, now hoping that someone would notice him and offer assistance, he thought he heard the sound of a familiar tread.’
    • ‘They shared the ensuing silence amicably, until the heavy tread of boot-clad feet rumbled on the narrow wooden porch of the inn's street frontage.’
    • ‘There is no noise, until one hears the soft, heavy tread of a large woman, walking slowly to the chair, and with great care lowering herself onto the chair.’
    • ‘Eventually I hear distant voices which grow louder and louder and then the opening of the door before the heavy tread of footsteps along the landing to my room.’
    • ‘We could almost hear the cadenced tread of feet.’
    • ‘Plush but tidy brown hush puppies softened the girl's tread, and she walked with a slight shuffle, back hunched a bit, as if she were trying to hide from the world.’
    • ‘And almost as if waiting off stage to be called, they heard her footsteps - the light tread of women's shoes - moving toward them.’
    • ‘He was paralyzed by the agony, unable to move even as he felt the heavy tread of General Powell's feet as he came to stand above him.’
    • ‘He listened to his heavy tread as he walked down the wharf.’
    • ‘A moment later the front door opened and Ben heard the heavy tread of Hoss's boots against the porch boards.’
    • ‘The distant tread of booted feet sounded above me and I smiled.’
    • ‘The streets were so very quiet that the steady tread of my hobnailed boots muffled by the ground frost sounded unnatural.’
    • ‘And I'm starting to hear the steady tread of a group of footsteps, heavy and full of impending danger.’
    • ‘He began to pace slightly, his familiar heavy tread thudding in my ears as if he were marching in my head, crushing with his boots my own thoughts and dreams.’
    • ‘The sound of the manservant's heavy tread dragged him out of his thoughts.’
    • ‘She exclaimed happily in greeting as she heard the light tread of his boots on the kitchen tile.’
    step, footstep, footfall, tramp
    View synonyms
  • 2The top surface of a step or stair.

    • ‘In all the houses, suspended straight-flight stairs have treads and risers made of continuous sheets of folded steel with flat steel stringers.’
    • ‘So in the above example, a stairway with four risers will have three treads.’
    • ‘The distance between vertical members on the stairs is the same as for a deck, and a 6-inch maximum from the bottom rail to the tread is usually required.’
    • ‘The thesis was on the behaviour of very thin reinforced concrete planks used as stair treads in steel stairs, such as I had designed for the fire stair in the Menzies Hotel in Sydney in 1984.’
    • ‘The rise should be no more than 7 1/2 inches and the width of a tread at least 10 inches.’
    • ‘I had a similar problem with my cat when I was revarnishing my stair treads.’
    • ‘A common design for stair treads provides a groove in the under surface, placed somewhat back from the rounded forward edge.’
    • ‘The remainder of the aluminum was utilized in furniture, equipment, ventilation ducts, ladders, stair treads, and railings.’
    • ‘The stair railings, treads, and risers are also controlled by code.’
    • ‘Cut through the middle of any damaged stair treads to remove it.’
    • ‘How the stairs were attached, the width of the treads, and how high each step was became less of a secret to me.’
    • ‘Designers often use glass tiles as decorative accents in backsplashes, showers, pool borders, floors, and even on the risers between stair treads.’
    • ‘The stringer connects the level of the deck to the grade, for the installation of stair risers and treads.’
    • ‘There was no roof, while anything of value inside had long gone, from the original floor slabs and fireplaces to the lintels and stair treads.’
    • ‘The step from the ground to the first tread will then be the same height as the other steps after the treads are attached to the stringers.’
    • ‘The same rubber, but in gray, covers the stair treads.’
    • ‘Following rough construction of the stairs, you will be covering the treads and risers with the finish material, as well as constructing a railing system.’
    • ‘He tore up the stairs without touching a single tread, flung open the door of his room, tore open the window in its turn and flung from it a piece of Moroccan red about half the size of a toffee.’
    • ‘Above, warm cedar covers the mezzanine and forms stair treads.’
    • ‘Along the hard side, exposed stairs with ash treads, risers and handrails climb to galleries which are connected to similar ones behind the timber screen on the soft side.’
  • 3The thick molded part of a vehicle tire that grips the road.

    • ‘The surface was like a thick clay which clogged up the tyre treads, turning them into slicks.’
    • ‘There is grip only where asphalt and tread come in contact, with no water between them.’
    • ‘A pallet of new wheels for the table have been turned and await assembly; they're regular car wheels, but have been re-profiled with flat treads.’
    • ‘SBS rubber is a common component of tire treads and rubber-soled shoes.’
    • ‘One method involves taking an imprint of the contact between the tread and the track.’
    • ‘An examination showed the left main wheel had shed its tread and deflated.’
    • ‘There are suggestions of design problems, involving the way in which the treads are bonded with the rest of the tire.’
    • ‘Its ultra-fine ‘sipes’ (grooves in the treads of tyres to improve grip) resemble honeycombs.’
    • ‘Everyone surrounded the craft and got a good look at it; it was a 15 foot-long van with treads surrounding its six wheels.’
    • ‘One way Stevens described is to make the entire manned base a rover: putting it on wheels or treads and moving it robotically from one site to another between visits by human crews.’
    • ‘They are still vulnerable to aquaplaning because of their shallower tread depth, but on a plain wet road without big puddles, their grip is now no worse than a normal road tyre whose tread has been worn to a similar depth.’
    • ‘Both of the treads and several wheels couldn't take the sudden acceleration, tearing away noisily and flying off on their own short trajectories.’
    • ‘Instead of wheels the vehicle had light tank style treads designed uniquely for the RK with four wheels mounted above the ground line.’
    • ‘One is idle, because the terrain is so difficult that its looped tread has actually come off its wheels.’
    • ‘Also make sure that your tyres have proper treads and are not as finished as the body of a snake.’
    • ‘It is a non-pneumatic wheel, made up of a rubber tread bonded to the hub through flexible spokes.’
    • ‘The new (nearly new) car wouldn't take the snow chains and I wished, for the first time in years, for a 4x4 and vowed to get a pair of old wheels with knobbly treads.’
    • ‘Remember, most punctures are caused by something sticking to the tread and working through during numerous wheel revolutions.’
    • ‘The tire tread touches the ground the least amount in this vertical position.’
    • ‘He and his wife go out to change the tire, and George is surprised to find a high-heeled shoe lodged in the treads.’
    1. 3.1 The part of a wheel that touches the ground or a rail.
      • ‘The treads give added mobility over predecessors with conventional wheels, allowing it to travel over thick carpet.’
    2. 3.2 The upper surface of a railroad track, in contact with the wheels.
    3. 3.3 The part of the sole of a shoe that rests on the ground.
      • ‘She thwacked a lonesome pebble into the until now deathly still waters of the picturesque campus lake with a black platform trainer which could have had a brick wedged between sole and tread but at least made her an inch taller.’
      • ‘If you find the perfect pump, but the ball does not have a finish to it, go to a cobbler and get rubber treads put down.’
      • ‘Don't worry - they look exactly the same, with their chain-link tread, ribbed rubber bootie, and sumptuous leather cuffs.’
      • ‘It is fairly close to a road shoe in terms of build and design but with some key differences, like its extra-firm heel, quick-dry outsoles and high-traction treads.’
      • ‘Ditch your old pair when the tread or heel wear out, and invest in shoes that offer the best support.’
      • ‘At least one of us will step in a pile of dog dirt which will have to be laboriously extracted from the shoe treads with a stick once we get home.’
      • ‘I tapped the treads of his sneakers with my foot.’
      • ‘And despite his protégés, Snyder probably remains the poet who's ground away the most sole tread hiking through wilderness.’
      • ‘If your old hiking shoes no longer provide support or have lost their tread, it's time to give them the boot.’
      • ‘I have a pair that I've been wearing for eight years - the soles are somewhat worn down but they have at least another couple of years to go before the tread disappears.’
      • ‘They were old and had no tread, but she knew if she went back inside to change them she wouldn't go back out.’
      • ‘Thanks… the tread is relatively smooth, so it's nothing caught there.’


  • 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.

      • ‘Her head popped up from under the water and she laughed, treading water as he walked through the waves out to her.’
      • ‘He had been swimming and had started treading water when he started getting into difficulties.’
      • ‘But I began to tire, and I realised that if I rested and trod water, I would undo all the progress I had made.’
      • ‘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’.’
      • ‘We were treading water in a large water basin in a generator room.’
      • ‘She emerged from her dive and started treading water as she turned herself around to look at the room.’
      • ‘As Trey notes, to be certified for diving you have to swim two hundred yards and tread water for ten minutes.’
      • ‘I tried to catch my breath, maniacally treading water like a child learning how to swim.’
      • ‘As part of his basic training Kevin had to swim 200 metres and tread water for two minutes.’
      1. 1.1Fail to advance or make progress.
        ‘men who are treading water in their careers’
        • ‘Brando trod water a lot, so I might go for Mitchum.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘With a 10th win in 11 league games assured, the Old Trafford aristocrats trod water slightly after the interval.’
        • ‘As Maloney treads water, others are catching up.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘The real problem is that the rhetoric currently focused on the band either treads water too obviously or overreaches in apparent hipness.’
        • ‘The plot treads water and most of the gags are so achingly obvious, you'll be hard pushed to even smile.’
        • ‘He treads water for a few more minutes and sputters out a handful of other fun winter facts.’


Old English tredan (as a verb), of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch treden and German treten.