\ 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

Little by little, Purcell—treading the blurred line between burnout and breakdown—perceives these sickening new crimes as the fruit of diseased notions and lingering hatreds from earlier decades and even centuries. Tom Nolan, WSJ, "Mysteries: Tales of Three Blood-Soaked Cities," 30 Nov. 2018 Blondes, in particular, tread a nuanced line—aiming for a certain Bond girl tawniness while retaining a spiritual undercurrent of sunniness. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "Behati Prinsloo Has the Perfect Shade of Victoria's Secret Blonde for Next Week's Show," 31 Oct. 2018 Just a few weeks before the 26-year-old Machado likely hits the open market as one of the most desirable free agents in baseball, the big-hitting shortstop has become the latest star to tread the line between fierce competitors and dirty players. Greg Beacham, The Seattle Times, "Benches clear after Machado clips Aguilar’s leg in NLCS," 16 Oct. 2018 There are nonetheless signs of life: a gas pump outside Arlit, a power line bringing electricity to nearby uranium mines, a herdsman and the ubiquitous camel, which thrives where most fear to tread. Washington Post, "AP PHOTOS: Traveling off the map on the Trans-Sahara highway," 25 June 2018 There were suggestions from the Brazil camp that Tite, who has trodden a careful diplomatic line with Neymar, had spoken specifically to the 26-year-old about being more selfless. Jonathan Wilson,, "Brazil Secures Its Win, but Neymar's Actions Remain a Lightning Rod," 22 June 2018 In opening up, Facebook had to tread a line between giving developers tools to play with and giving away the store — allowing rivals to more or less duplicate Facebook with its own data. Owen Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle, "How Facebook’s platform made it worth billions — and set it up for a fall," 20 Mar. 2018 All will be treading new ground as combustion-engine companies feel out the early days of electric racing on their paths to becoming electric car companies. Matthew Jancer, Popular Mechanics, "This Is the Year Electric Car Racing Gets Real," 11 Dec. 2018 Investors have been treading carefully around the politics of Brexit, something that may exacerbate swings in markets by limiting the numbers of buyers and sellers. Avantika Chilkoti, WSJ, "Brexit Jitters Hit Markets as U.K. Prepares for ‘No Deal’," 10 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Mexican governments in recent years have shifted away from the tread-softly policies of the 20th century. Scott Smith, Fox News, "Mexico's new president could help ease pressure on Venezuela," 9 July 2018 If there's rain in the forecast, make sure your tires have good tread by sticking a coin in the groove of your tire. Brigitt Earley, Woman's Day, "6 Ways to Stay Safe on Your Next Family Road Trip," 29 Nov. 2018 Switzerland’s executive branch, known as the federal council, has tread carefully on the issue. Brian Blackstone, WSJ, "Swiss Canton Votes to Ban Burqas," 23 Sep. 2018 Here's a quick trick to check how worn your treads are. Timothy Dahl, Popular Mechanics, "How to Prepare Your Car for a Road Trip in One Day," 18 Aug. 2016 From a verdant valley in the middle of Bhutan to the well-tread steps of Santorini, Greece, these 50 picks have it all: inimitable style, discreet, but sharp service, destination restaurant-worthy food, and more. Betsy Blumenthal, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best Hotels in the World: 2018 Readers' Choice Awards," 9 Oct. 2018 There’s a large main compartment with compression straps, a zip mesh organizer pocket, oversize super-tread wheels, and comfortable extendable handle. The Editors, Outside Online, "Sweet Deals on Gear That Will Help You Travel the World," 18 May 2018 In the cycling studio, 12 instructors record classes about eight to 12 times a week each, in front of a live group of actual riders at an NYC studio; a separate treadmill studio is ramping up its offerings as the treads start to ship. Cheryl Wischhover, Vox, "Peloton’s $2,000 stationary bike has totally disrupted working out at home," 14 Nov. 2018 Once the bulldozer began moving again, this time at a 45-degree angle, Longenecker was caught under the treads, authorities said. Michael Rubinkam, The Seattle Times, "DA: Police justified in chasing drug suspect with bulldozer," 28 Aug. 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

14 Jan 2019

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

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


to settle judicially or to act as judge

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