Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


verb \ˈtred\

Simple Definition of tread

  • : to walk

  • : to walk on or along (something)

  • : to form (a path) by walking

Full Definition of tread

trod play \ˈträd\ also tread·edtrod·den play \ˈträ-dən\ or trodtread·ing

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1a :  to step or walk on or overb :  to walk or proceed along :  follow <treading a fine line between tradition and innovation>

  3. 2a :  to beat or press with the feet :  trampleb :  to subdue or repress as if by trampling :  crush

  4. 3 :  to copulate with —used of a male bird

  5. 4a :  to form by treading :  beat <tread a path>b :  to execute by stepping or dancing <tread a measure>

  6. intransitive verb
  7. 1 :  to move or proceed on or as if on foot <must tread lightly>

  8. 2a :  to set foot <has gone where others fear to tread>b :  to put one's foot :  step <carelessly treading on the flowers>

  9. 3 :  copulate

tread·er noun
tread on one's toes
  1. :  to give offense (as by encroaching on one's rights or feelings)

tread water
  1. :  to keep the body nearly upright in the water and the head above water by a treading motion of the feet usually aided by the hands

Examples of tread

  1. They slowly trod back to the camp.

  2. Don't tread on the grass.

  3. treading the halls of the Senate

  4. Countless footsteps have trodden a path to their door.

Origin of tread

Middle English treden, from Old English tredan; akin to Old High German tretan to tread

First Known Use: before 12th century




Simple Definition of tread

  • : the part of a tire that touches the ground : the pattern of raised lines on the surface of a tire

  • : a mark made by a tire when it rolls over the ground

  • : the part of a shoe or boot that touches the ground : the pattern of raised lines on the bottom of a shoe or boot

Full Definition of tread

  1. 1 :  a mark (as a footprint or the imprint of a tire) made by or as if by treading

  2. 2a (1) :  the action of treading (2) :  an act or instance of treading :  stepb :  manner of steppingc :  the sound of treading

  3. 3a :  the part of a shoe or boot sole that touches the ground; also :  the pattern on the bottom of a soleb (1) :  the part of a wheel or tire that makes contact with a road or rail (2) :  the pattern of ridges or grooves made or cut in the face of a tire

  4. 4 :  the distance between the points of contact with the ground of the two front wheels or the two rear wheels of a vehicle

  5. 5a :  the upper horizontal part of a stepb :  the width of such a tread

tread·less play \-ləs\ adjective

Examples of tread

  1. The treads of the tires were badly worn.

  2. running shoes with good treads

13th Century

First Known Use of tread

13th century

Other Automotive Terms

TREAD Defined for Kids



verb \ˈtred\

Definition of tread

trod \ˈträd\trod·den \ˈträ-dən\ or trodtread·ing

  1. 1 :  to step or walk on or over

  2. 2 :  to beat or press with the feet <The snow was deep … few people had been out to tread it down … — Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising>

  3. 3 :  to move on foot :  walk

tread water
  1. :  to keep the body upright in water and the head above water by moving the legs and arms




Definition of tread

  1. 1 :  the action, manner, or sound of stepping or walking

  2. 2 :  a mark made by a tire rolling over the ground

  3. 3 :  the part of something (as a shoe or tire) that touches a surface

  4. 4 :  the part of a step that is stepped on <stair treads>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up tread? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 11, 2016

the holder of an office

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


How much does a batman (the Turkish unit of measurement) weigh?

16.96 pounds 196.5 pounds 100 pounds 2.2 pounds
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.