Language: Old English
Origin: sprædan


1 verb
spread1 S2 W2 past tense and past participle spread

affect more people/places

[intransitive and transitive] if something spreads or is spread, it becomes larger or moves so that it affects more people or a larger area
spread through
Fire quickly spread through the building.
spread over
He watched the dark stain spread over the gray carpet.
The disease spread rapidly amongst the poor.
spread (from something) to something
The cancer had spread to her liver.
Revolution quickly spread from France to Italy.
the risk of AIDS being spread through contaminated blood


a) [intransitive] to become known about or used by more and more people:
News of the explosion spread swiftly.
spread to/through/over etc
Buddhism spread to China from India.
The news spread like wildfire (=became known very quickly).
Word spread quickly and soon a crowd had gathered.
b) [transitive] to tell a lot of people about something
spread lies/rumours/gossip
Andy loves spreading rumours about his colleagues.
They are spreading the word about the benefits of immunization.


also spread out [transitive] to open something out or arrange a group of things so that they cover a flat surface
spread something over/across/on something
Papers and photos were spread across the floor.
He spread the map out on the desk.
a table spread with a white cloth

throughout an area

[intransitive] also be spread and spread out to cover or exist across a large area
spread over
the forest that spread over the whole of that region
spread throughout
The company has more than 2500 shops spread throughout the UK.

soft substance

[intransitive and transitive] to put a soft substance over a surface or to be soft enough to be put over a surface
spread something on/over something
He spread plaster on the walls.
spread something with something
Spread the toast thinly with jam.
If you warm up the butter it'll spread more easily.
Spread the nut mixture evenly over the bottom.

arms/fingers etc

[transitive] if you spread your arms, fingers or legs, you move them far apart:
He shrugged and spread his hands.

over time

[transitive] also spread out to do something over a period of time, rather than at one time
spread something over something
Could I spread the repayments over a longer period?
There will be 12 concerts spread throughout the summer.


[transitive] to share or divide something among several people or things
spread the load/burden
The bills are sent out on different dates to spread the workload on council staff.
They want the country's wealth to be more evenly spread.


[intransitive always + adverb/preposition] if an expression spreads over someone's face, it slowly appears on their face
spread over/across
A slow smile spread over her face.

spread your wings

a) to start to have an independent life and experience new things:
A year spent studying abroad should allow him to spread his wings a bit.
b) if a bird or insect spreads its wings, it stretches them wide

be spread (too) thin/thinly

if money, effort etc is spread thin, it is being used for many things so there is not enough for each thing:
They complained that resources were spread too thinly.

spread yourself too thin

to try to do too many things at the same time so that you do not do any of them effectively

spread seeds/manure/fertilizer

TA to scatter seeds, manure etc on the ground

➔ spread your net wide

at net1 (8)

spread out

phrasal verb
1 if a group of people spread out, they move apart from each other so that they cover a wider area:
The search party spread out to search the surrounding fields.

spread something ↔ out

to open something out or arrange a group of things on a flat surface:
Sue spread out her notes on the kitchen table and began to write.
3 also be spread out to cover a large area:
The city spread out below her looked so calm.

spread something ↔ out

to do something over a period of time, rather than at one time
spread something ↔ out over
The course is spread out over four days.

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