dead

1 of 3

adjective

1
: deprived of life : no longer alive
a dead tree
dead soldiers
missing and presumed dead
2
a(1)
: having the appearance of death : deathly
in a dead faint
(2)
: lacking power to move, feel, or respond : numb
my arm feels dead
b
: very tired
Our legs were completely dead after the hike.
c(1)
: incapable of being stirred emotionally or intellectually : unresponsive
a heart dead to pity
felt dead inside
(2)
: grown cold : extinguished
dead coals
3
a
: inanimate, inert
dead matter
b
: barren, infertile
dead soil
c
: no longer producing or functioning : exhausted
a dead battery
4
a(1)
: lacking power or effect
a dead law
(2)
: no longer having interest, relevance, or significance
a dead issue
b
: no longer in use : obsolete
a dead language
c
: no longer active : extinct
a dead volcano
d
: lacking in gaiety or animation
a dead party
e(1)
: lacking in commercial activity : quiet
The city is dead after five o'clock.
(2)
: commercially idle or unproductive
dead capital
f
: lacking elasticity (see elasticity sense 1a)
a dead tennis ball
g
: being out of action or out of use
The phone went dead.
specifically, electrical engineering : free from any connection to a source of voltage and free from electric charges
a dead electrical circuit
h(1)
sports and games : being out of play
a dead ball
(2)
croquet : temporarily forbidden to play or to make a certain play
5
a
: not running or circulating : stagnant
dead water
b
: not turning
the dead center of a lathe
c
mechanical engineering : not imparting motion or power although otherwise functioning
a dead rear axle
d
: lacking warmth, vigor, or taste
The fire was dead.
a dead wine
6
a
: absolutely uniform
a dead level of mediocrity
b(1)
: unerring
a dead shot with a rifle
(2)
: exact
dead center of the target
(3)
: certain to be doomed
he's dead if he's late for curfew
(4)
: irrevocable
a dead loss
c
: abrupt
brought to a dead stop
d(1)
: complete, absolute
a dead silence
(2)
: all-out
caught it on the dead run
7
: devoid of former occupants
dead villages
deadness noun

dead

2 of 3

noun

plural dead
1
: someone who is no longer alive : one that is dead (see dead entry 1 sense 1)
usually used collectively
They were among the dead.
2
: the state of being dead
raised him from the dead Colossians 2:12 (Revised Standard Version)
3
: the time of greatest quiet
the dead of night

dead

3 of 3

adverb

1
: absolutely, utterly
dead certain
finished dead last
The room became dead quiet. Farley Mowat
2
: suddenly and completely
stopped dead in his tracks
3
: directly
dead ahead
Phrases
dead in the water
1
: incapable of being effective : stalled
peace talks were dead in the water
2
: as good as dead : doomed
most books are dead in the water long before their publication Phillip Lopate
dead to rights
: with no chance of escape or excuse : red-handed
had him dead to rights for the robbery
over one's dead body
: only by overcoming one's utter and determined resistance
vows that they'll raise his taxes over his dead body
Choose the Right Synonym for dead

dead, defunct, deceased, departed, late mean devoid of life.

dead applies literally to what is deprived of vital force but is used figuratively of anything that has lost any attribute (such as energy, activity, radiance) suggesting life.

a dead, listless performance

defunct stresses cessation of active existence or operation.

a defunct television series

deceased, departed, and late apply to persons who have died recently.

deceased is the preferred term in legal use.

the estate of the deceased

departed is used usually as a euphemism.

our departed sister

late is used especially with reference to a person in a specific relation or status.

the company's late president

Example Sentences

Adjective Her husband is dead. He died last year. He was found dead in his apartment yesterday. He lay dead on the floor. The lost mountain climbers were believed dead. The poster said that the robbers were wanted dead or alive. Our legs were completely dead after hiking all day. I'm dead if I come in late for work again. If I ever get my hands on you, you're dead! Noun By the end of the war, there were over two million dead. He began his journey in the dead of winter. Adverb She's dead certain that she can finish the job. We were dead tired by the end of the day. He's not joking. In fact, he's dead serious. They were both dead drunk and passed out on the floor. She finished the race dead last. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
The child was traveling in a car on Wednesday with his family when he was shot dead and his father injured by gunfire, his mother told state media in an interview with Tasnim Friday. Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN, 19 Nov. 2022 Marty Hutto, 50, of Trinity, was shot dead following a vehicle pursuit near Lawrence County Road 222 around 9:15 p.m. Aug. 6. William Thornton | Wthornton@al.com, al, 18 Nov. 2022 Morgan Keane, a British-French 25-year-old, was cutting wood in the small village of Calvignac, in southwestern France, when he was shot dead on Dec. 2, 2020, according to French news media reports. Victoria Bisset, Washington Post, 17 Nov. 2022 Benharl Kahil, an editorial cartoonist, was shot dead in Lebak, in the southern Philippine province of Sultan Kudarat, on Nov. 5. Mark Saludes, The Christian Science Monitor, 16 Nov. 2022 Not far outside of Fort Worth, Texas, their group was harassed by a local gang and in the midst of the altercation, Mary Abel was shot dead. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, 14 Nov. 2022 Three people were shot dead and two wounded Sunday night at a parking garage on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, police said Sunday night. Peter Weber, The Week, 14 Nov. 2022 The sky was gray with rain clouds as a crowd of mourners made their way into Atlanta’s State Farm Arena to celebrate the life of the rapper Takeoff, the cornerstone of the Migos who was shot dead on November 1. Mankaprr Conteh, Rolling Stone, 11 Nov. 2022 Iashvili had shot himself dead ten years before Steinbeck’s visit, as Stalin’s Great Terror of 1936–1938 killed writers and attempted to wipe them from memory. Maya Jaggi, The New York Review of Books, 9 Nov. 2022
Noun
Toby is initially presented as admirable mostly by virtue of not being the parent abandoning two kids in the dead of night. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Nov. 2022 Walking around campus, even in the dead of winter, helps center her. Lindsay Schnell, USA TODAY, 8 Nov. 2022 Like folklore, much of evermore is made up of somber soliloquies that materialize like a fine mist over a field in the dead of winter. Allaire Nuss, EW.com, 7 Nov. 2022 Remember, a perfect white dress shirt for men should look crisp and streamlined from the neck to the waist, and shouldn’t smother you in a summer wedding or leave you dry in the dead of the winter. Christian Gollayan, Men's Health, 7 Nov. 2022 Take Dua Lipa pairing a bikini with snow boots in the dead of winter, for example. Claire Harmeyer, Peoplemag, 2 Nov. 2022 Everyone loves a puffer jacket in the dead of winter, and SUBUs give you the same cozy feeling for your feet. Danny Perez, Popular Mechanics, 28 Oct. 2022 Luminizing Face Enhancer contains light-diffusing pigments to give anyone who wears it a luminous glow — even in the dead of winter. Allure, 26 Oct. 2022 In the dead of winter, this is much easier than yanking a pull cord. Dan Diclerico, Good Housekeeping, 25 Oct. 2022
Adverb
Of course, there’s an obvious possible answer to the question of why some Americans are still dead set on ending affirmative action. Emma Green, The New Yorker, 31 Oct. 2022 In spite of her insolence and his new son, Viserys is dead set on Rhaenyra inheriting the throne. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, 5 Sep. 2022 The lecture hall remained dead quiet following the joke; after a beat, Sophie erupted in peals of loud, uncontrollable laughter. Mike Mariani, Wired, 16 Aug. 2022 More than 20,000 of the Vietnam War's dead passed through here. Arkansas Online, 24 July 2021 More than 20,000 of the Vietnam War's dead passed through here. Matt Sedensky, Star Tribune, 20 July 2021 The Associated Press reports that officers found the pair dead shortly before 5 p.m. after responding to a report of shots fired. Greg Hanlon, Peoplemag, 10 Nov. 2022 At the same time, the Senate remains a tossup, with candidates locked in near dead-even races in three states — Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania — and tight races in at least another four. Lisa Lerer, BostonGlobe.com, 6 Nov. 2022 FiveThirtyEight, the polling aggregator, currently rates the Senate race between Republican Herschel Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock as dead even, with each candidate pulling 46% support. Joshua Jamerson, WSJ, 3 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dead.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective, Noun, and Adverb

Middle English deed, from Old English dēad; akin to Old Norse dauthr dead, deyja to die, Old High German tōt dead — more at die

First Known Use

Adjective

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adverb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of dead was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near dead

Cite this Entry

“Dead.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dead. Accessed 4 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

dead 1 of 3

adjective

1
: deprived of life : no longer alive
2
a
: having the appearance of death : deathly
in a dead faint
c
: very tired
the trip was really tiring; I'm dead
d
: not reacting : insensitive
dead to pity
e
: burned out : grown cold
dead coals
3
a
: not naturally having life : inanimate
dead matter
b
: no longer producing or functioning
dead battery
4
a
: no longer in use or effect : obsolete
dead language
b
: no longer active : extinct
dead volcano
c
: not lively
a dead party
d
: lacking in commercial activity : quiet
e
: lacking spring
dead tennis ball
f
: being out of action or out of use
a dead telephone line
g
: being out of play
a dead ball
5
: not running or circulating : stagnant
dead air
6
a
: absolutely uniform
the dead level of the prairie
b
: unerring, exact
a dead shot
dead center of the target
c
: being sudden and complete
a dead stop
over one's dead body
: only by overcoming one's utter and determined resistance
deadness noun

dead

2 of 3

noun

plural dead
1
plural : those that are dead
the living and the dead
2
: the time of greatest quiet or least activity
dead of night
dead of winter

dead

3 of 3

adverb

1
: to the highest degree
dead right
2
: suddenly and completely
stopped dead
3
: straight entry 2
dead ahead

Medical Definition

dead 1 of 2

adjective

1
: deprived of life : having died
dead of scarlet fever
2
: lacking power to move, feel, or respond : numb

dead

2 of 2

noun

plural dead
: one that is dead
usually used collectively

More from Merriam-Webster on dead

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