\ˈtred \
trod\ ˈträd \ also treaded; trodden\ ˈträ-​dᵊn \ or trod; treading

Definition of tread 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to step or walk on or over

b : to walk or proceed along : follow treading a fine line between tradition and innovation

2a : to form by treading : beat tread a path

b : to execute by stepping or dancing tread a measure

3a : to beat or press with the feet : trample

b : to subdue or repress as if by trampling : crush

4 : to copulate with used of a male bird

intransitive verb

1 : to move or proceed on or as if on foot must tread lightly

2a : to set foot has gone where others fear to tread

b : to put one's foot : step carelessly treading on the flowers

3 : copulate

tread on one's toes

: to give offense (as by encroaching on one's rights or feelings)

tread water

: 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



Definition of tread (Entry 2 of 2)

1a(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

b : the part of a shoe or boot sole that touches the ground also : the pattern on the bottom of a sole

2a : the upper horizontal part of a step

b : the width of such a tread

3a : manner of stepping

b : the sound of treading

c(1) : the action of treading

(2) : an act or instance of treading : step

4 : a mark (something, such as a footprint or the imprint of a tire) made by or as if by treading

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

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Other Words from tread


treader noun


treadless \ ˈtred-​ləs \ adjective

Examples of tread in a Sentence


They slowly trod back to the camp. Don't tread on the grass. treading the halls of the Senate Countless footsteps have trodden a path to their door.


The treads of the tires were badly worn. running shoes with good treads
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Because there is virtually no data behind the treatment and it hasn't been approved by the FDA, experts (along with Allure editors) are unclear of the long-term effects of the procedure and urge those interested to tread with extreme caution. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "What Is Semi-Permanent BB Cream, and Why Are People Getting It Microneedled Into Their Faces?," 9 Nov. 2018 Now post-Brexit Britain will rush in where not even Brussels has been foolish enough to tread. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Spreadsheet Brexit and the Digital Tax," 29 Oct. 2018 Still, there are deeper concerns about legacy software support on the Mac platform, so Apple needs to tread carefully. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, "What Apple might announce at its October 30 “special event” in Brooklyn," 26 Oct. 2018 Real-life events shouldn’t require spoiler warnings, but those who wish to preserve the freshness of a first viewing should tread carefully over the next few paragraphs. Justin Chang,, "'Three Identical Strangers' is a riveting account of identical triplets separated at birth," 28 June 2018 That, Harris said, led him to question whether Mohler would adhere to his own view that local officials should tread lightly on questions of immigration policy. Ian Duncan,, "U.S. Rep. Andy Harris alleges Baltimore County provides 'sanctuary' to immigrants, MS-13," 28 June 2018 At the same time, Tehran has been treading carefully to avoid antagonizing Iraq’s most influential cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who commands sway over millions of Shiites in Iraq and beyond. Isabel Coles And, WSJ, "Iran-Backed Militias Seek Political Sway in Iraq," 10 May 2018 On Wednesday, Trump didn't tread lightly when speaking to US allies. USA TODAY, "Live stream: President Trump takes questions following NATO summit," 12 July 2018 In supporting the reversal of the driving ban, Prince Salman is treading through tricky territory, boldly overruling the clerics accustomed to monopolizing the realm of women’s conduct and defining what is permissible. Rafia Zakaria, The New Republic, "Driving Toward Change," 23 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Their argument: While the state court’s decision was based on the state constitution, its action treads on the U.S. Constitution by taking power granted to the state legislatures to run elections. Jonathan Lai,, "Top Pa. Republicans appeal gerrymandering case to U.S. Supreme Court," 21 June 2018 The whole thing sits on top of a thick sole that’s armed with a grippy tread bottom. Tyler Watamanuk, GQ, "Forget the Dad Shoe—It’s Time for the Grandpa Sneaker," 11 June 2018 Although many analyses have studied the falling cost of installing offshore wind, assigning a value to offshore wind is ground that is less well-tread. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "The value of offshore wind energy: What the US is missing out on," 26 Apr. 2018 Shrager suggests one with wide steps and treads and perhaps even a safety bar handrail. Jane E. Brody, charlotteobserver, "How to age well and stay in your home," 27 June 2018 The baseball reasons have been tread over time and again. Jon Meoli,, "How did this happen? Orioles players examine why this season spun out of control," 24 June 2018 The pieces bear the marks of this process; they are whorled and rutted from fingers, elbows and boot treads. Sharon Mizota,, "Brie Ruais puts all of her body weight into each sculpture she makes," 19 May 2018 Searchers also spotted footprints near the Sanford Glacier that matched the tread of a boot found a mile down the river. Anchorage Daily News, "NPS: Evidence suggests overdue hikers may have died crossing river in Wrangell-St. Elias," 2 July 2018 Brewer’s vehicle sustained a mechanical malfunction, resulting in the brake drum and tire tread separating from the truck, Montes said. Stephen Ruiz,, "FedEx driver killed in freak accident on turnpike, FHP says," 21 June 2018

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

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First Known Use of tread


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


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

History and Etymology for tread


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

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Statistics for tread

Last Updated

18 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tread

The first known use of tread was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for tread



English Language Learners Definition of tread

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to walk

: to walk on or along (something)

: to form (a path) by walking



English Language Learners Definition of tread (Entry 2 of 2)

: 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


\ˈtred \
trod\ ˈträd \; trodden\ ˈträ-​dᵊn \ or trod; treading

Kids Definition of tread

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to step or walk on or over

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 : to move on foot : walk

tread water

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



Kids Definition of tread (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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

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

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on tread

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tread

Spanish Central: Translation of tread

Nglish: Translation of tread for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tread for Arabic Speakers

Comments on tread

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a private place of worship

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