: a soft, heavy, metallic element with atomic number 82 found mostly in combination and used especially in alloys, batteries, and shields against sound, vibration, or radiation—often used before another noun
This capsule was sealed in a tungsten wheel the size of a tricycle tire, which was then placed behind thick lead shielding.—Sandra Blakeslee
I'd rather he be disappointed with the truth rather than lead him down the garden path—Harold Robbins
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When to Use Lead or Led
There is some persistent confusion about lead and led. Or, we should say, there is confusion about the leads and led. Lead is both a noun and a verb, as most people know. There are several unrelated nouns spelled lead: one most commonly refers to a metal (as in, "The paint was made with lead"), and the other most commonly refers to a position of advantage (as in, "Our team was in the lead"). The verb lead is pronounced /LEED/, with a long e; the noun that refers to a position or advantage is also pronounced /LEED/, with a long e; the noun that refers to the metal, however, is pronounced /LED/, with a short e. To this moderately convoluted situation, add the past tense and past participle of the verb lead, which is led and pronounced like the metal noun lead with a short e. The homophonic confusion leads to homographic confusion, and you will therefore occasionally see lead in constructions where led is called for (as in, “She lead the ducklings to safety” instead of “She led the ducklings to safety”). The correct past and past participle of lead is spelled led. If you aren’t sure whether to use led or lead as the verb in your sentence, try reading it aloud to yourself. If the verb is pronounced /LED/, use led.
guide implies intimate knowledge of the way and of all its difficulties and dangers.
guided the scouts through the cave
lead implies showing the way and often keeping those that follow under control and in order.
led his team to victory
steer implies an ability to keep to a course and stresses the capacity of maneuvering correctly.
steered the ship through a narrow channel
pilot suggests guidance over a dangerous or complicated course.
piloted the bill through the Senate
engineer implies finding ways to avoid or overcome difficulties in achieving an end or carrying out a plan.
engineered his son's election to the governorship
Examples of lead in a Sentence
the lead diplomat is responsible for making policy for the entire embassy
Recent Examples on the Web
Results of the lead sampling would have to be publicly available online.—Dorany Pineda, Los Angeles Times, 16 Sep. 2023 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is the lead professional organization for OB-GYNs in the U.S.—Adriana Gallardo, The Salt Lake Tribune, 15 Sep. 2023 Because of where the body was found, which just over the line into unincorporated Jefferson County, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office became the lead investigative agency in the murder.—Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al, 14 Sep. 2023 The lead attorney, Creighton Waters, pointed at Satterfield's family members who sat in the front row.—Erik Ortiz, NBC News, 14 Sep. 2023 One notable difference in the most recent study was the diversity of participants, said Jennifer Mitchell, a neuroscientist at the University of California San Francisco and the lead author of both studies.—Rachel Nuwer, New York Times, 14 Sep. 2023 Goldman is also lead book runner on the Instacart and Klaviyo IPOs, which are scheduled to trade next week.—Luisa Beltran, Fortune, 14 Sep. 2023 After five years as one of the state’s lead budget writers, Sen. Elizabeth Steiner wants to manage Oregon’s finances.—Julia Shumway, oregonlive, 13 Sep. 2023 Jonathan Flowers, a senior engineer for Robinson Engineering, said the project aims to help University Park with its lead issue.—Alexandra Kukulka, Chicago Tribune, 13 Sep. 2023
With 9:34 left in the third quarter, the Cardinals had a 28-7 lead.—Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, 18 Sep. 2023 Cowboys respond, pad lead before half The Cowboys offense responded to the Jets’ quick strike, with a little help from some key penalties against the NY defense.—Sportsday Staff, Dallas News, 17 Sep. 2023 At the same time, failure to adapt and lead could hurt the coffee giant in customers’ eyes.—Peter Prengaman, Anchorage Daily News, 17 Sep. 2023 The Wave dominated the second half and created several decent opportunities after rookie Sierra Enge’s second goal of the season cut the lead in the 50th minute.—Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 Sep. 2023 That head-to-head record is used as the tiebreaker, so Baltimore’s one-game lead over Tampa Bay (92-58) is effectively two.—Jacob Calvin Meyer, Baltimore Sun, 17 Sep. 2023 The situation is almost the opposite of the Republican field, where Trump holds a commanding lead among the party’s base but remains far less beloved by a political class that fears his unpopularity among moderate and swing voters will lead to defeat in 2024.—Lisa Lerer, BostonGlobe.com, 17 Sep. 2023 Backup Collin Schlee ran for a 57-yard touchdown on his first play and was in the game for only four drives.
Sept. 16, 2023
Third-stringer Ethan Garbers completed a 13-yard pass on his first play, helping the Bruins roll up a 45-point halftime lead.—Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times, 17 Sep. 2023 Both lead and cadmium cause long-term damage to the body.—Kaitlin Sullivan, Health, 16 Sep. 2023
Netflix has become the leading premium video streaming platform in Korea, thanks to its huge investment in local content.—Patrick Frater, Variety, 18 Sep. 2023 Sheinbaum leads in the presidential race, according to polls.—David Agren, Washington Post, 7 Sep. 2023 Critics accuse him of leading the country down down a path of authoritarian rule.—Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, 7 Sep. 2023 Latrice Royale joins fellow drag artists Priyanka, Sasha Velour and Jaida Essence Hall in leading the new season.—Mckinley Franklin, Variety, 6 Sep. 2023 Alaska sports fans will see a familiar face leading the Utes against the Division II Seawolves.—Josh Reed, Anchorage Daily News, 6 Sep. 2023 Two bonus points go to the driver who leads the most laps.—Nathan Brown, The Indianapolis Star, 26 Aug. 2023 The boathouse is accessible from this level and leads directly to the dock.—Abby Montanez, Robb Report, 25 Aug. 2023 So neurodivergent basically refers to people who are autistic, dyslexic, may have high anxiety, ADHD, basically having conditions that often lead you to communicate or think or behave differently than a lot of other people.—Taylor Wilson, USA TODAY, 25 Aug. 2023 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'lead.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
Verb (1), Noun (1), and Adjective
Middle English leden, from Old English lǣdan; akin to Old High German leiten to lead, Old English līthan to go
Noun (2) and Verb (2)
Middle English leed, from Old English lēad; akin to Middle High German lōt lead
: a soft bluish white heavy metallic element that is found mostly in combination with other elements, is easily shaped, and is used especially in pipes, cable coverings, batteries, solder, and radiation shields see element
: a mass of lead used on a line for finding the depth of water (as in the ocean)
plural: lead framing for glass (as in windows)
: a thin stick of marking substance (as graphite) in or for a pencil
: a heavy soft malleable ductile plastic but inelastic bluish white metallic element found mostly in combination and used especially in pipes, cable sheaths, batteries, solder, and shields against radioactivity—symbol Pb see Chemical Elements Table