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v. spread, spread·ing, spreads
1. To open to a fuller extent or width; stretch: spread out the tablecloth; a bird spreading its wings.
2. To make wider the gap between; move farther apart: spread her fingers.
a. To distribute over a surface in a layer: spread varnish on the steps.
b. To cover with a layer: spread a cracker with butter.
a. To distribute widely: The tornado spread destruction.
b. To make a wide or extensive arrangement of: We spread the bicycle parts out on the floor.
c. To exhibit or display the full extent of: the scene that was spread before us.
5. To cause to become widely seen or known; scatter or disseminate: spread the news; spread the beam of the flashlight.
a. To prepare (a table) for eating; set.
b. To arrange (food or a meal) on a table.
7. To flatten (a rivet end, for example) by pounding.
1. To be extended or enlarged: The farm fields spread to the horizon.
2. To move over an area, be distributed, or be widely dispersed: The troops spread out across the field. The volcano's ash spread over the continent.
3. To become known or prevalent over a wide area: The word spread fast.
4. To be exhibited, displayed, or visible in broad or full extent: The vista spread seemingly to infinity.
5. To become or admit of being distributed in a layer: This paint spreads really well.
6. To become separated; be forced farther apart: The land masses spread until there was an ocean between them.
a. The act or process of spreading: the spread of disease.
b. Dissemination, as of news; diffusion.
a. An open area of land; an expanse.
b. A ranch, farm, or estate.
3. The extent or limit to which something is or can be spread: The tree's canopy has a spread of 50 feet.
4. A cloth covering for a bed, table, or other piece of furniture.
5. Informal An abundant meal laid out on a table.
6. A food to be spread on bread or crackers.
a. Two facing pages of a magazine, newspaper, or book, considered as a unit.
b. An article or advertisement running across two or more columns of a newspaper or magazine.
a. A difference, as between two figures or totals: What's the spread between tallest and shortest?
b. A position taken in two or more options or futures contracts in order to profit from a change in their relative prices.
c. The difference between the price asked and bid for a particular security.
d. The difference in yields between two fixed-income securities, as between short-term and long-term bonds.
9. A number of points offered to equalize the chances of winning in a wager on a competition, usually between sports teams. Also called point spread.
10. Wingspread.
spread (oneself) thin
To work on too many projects: overextend oneself.

[Middle English spreden, from Old English -sprǣdan (as in tōsprǣdan, to spread out); see sper- in Indo-European roots.]

spread′a·bil′i·ty n.
spread′a·ble adj.
spread′a·bly adv.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.




  1. (Anxiety was) as contagious as a yawn —Barbara Lazear Ascher, New York Times/Hers, October 23, 1986
  2. Blown up [with fever] like a tire —Elena Poniatowska
  3. (Excuses) breaking out like pimples —Marge Piercy
  4. Breed like guinea pigs —Raymond Chandler
  5. Catch happiness as quickly as others catch colds —Storm Jameson
  6. Catching like fire in dry grass —William Dean Howells
  7. Contagious like the gladness of a happy child —Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  8. Excitement swept through Jalna [the estate which is the setting for a series of De La Roche novels] like a forest fire —Mazo De La Roche
  9. Expand like air in a pressure chamber —Penelope Gilliatt
  10. Gather like dust on a windowsill —Anon
  11. Multiply like troubles —Marge Piercy
  12. Passed around [German measles] like a dish of cool figs at the first rehearsal —Reynolds Price
  13. (Houses) popping up everywhere like the heat rash. Like pimples —George Garrett
  14. Spread a thought … like butter on toast —Carlos Fuentes
  15. (Feel her pleasure deepening and) spreading like a chord struck in all octaves at once, sustained, played, and then held and held till it slowly faded into its overtones —Marge Piercy
  16. (She looked at me, recognition) spreading like a rash —Sharon Sheehe Stark
  17. (Pain) spreading like lava —John Braine
  18. Spreading [throughout her system] … like poison dye —Margaret Millar

    In the mystery novel, The Fiend, the author uses the simile to describe a key character’s growing alertness to a dangerous situation.

  19. (Affection … ) spread like an epidemic through the room —Jean Stafford
  20. Spread like an unconfirmed rumor —Elyse Sommer
  21. Spread like a quenchless fire —Percy Bysshe Shelley
  22. Spread … like a tiny spray of ink on a piece of blotting paper —Franz Werfel
  23. Spread like butter under a knife —Lawrence Durrell
  24. Spread like dandelions after spring rain —Marilyn Ross about growth of directories, Publishers Weekly, June 5, 1987
  25. (But they cling and) spread like lichen —Elizabeth Bishop
  26. Spread like mushrooms after a fresh spring rain —Anon

    Mushrooms have long lent themselves to quick growth comparisons. A variation: “Grow like toadstools.”

  27. Spread like mushrooms across an unsuspecting garden —Tom Robbins
  28. Spread like pancake batter on a hot griddle —Elyse Sommer
  29. Spread like the desert —Henry James
  30. (Silence) spread … like water that a pebble stirs —Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  31. Spread out like a doily —Alma Stone
  32. Spread out (the sun) like a jellyfish —John Steinbeck
  33. (I saw the vineyards) spread out like wings —Eudora Welty
  34. Spreads faster than panic in a plane —Donald Seaman
  35. Spreads like a sigh —Anon
  36. (Love that) spreads like a stain of ink in absorbent cloth —Diane Wakoski

    As poet Wakoski links the spreading stain with love in her poem, My Little Heart Pops Out, so W. H. Auden uses “Ruin spreading like a stain” in Something Is Bound to Happen.

  37. Spreads like good news —Slogan for Satinwax, Economic Laboratory
  38. Spread through like a clumsy, uninvited guest who is obese and eats too much —Lorrie Moore

    The descriptive frame of reference in Moore’s novel, Self-Help, is cancer.

  39. (Enemies … are) sprouting (around me) like tulips —Peter Benchley
Similes Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1988 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.spreading - process or result of distributing or extending over a wide expanse of space
change of location, travel - a movement through space that changes the location of something
diffusion - the spread of social institutions (and myths and skills) from one society to another
dispersion, scattering - spreading widely or driving off
invasion - (pathology) the spread of pathogenic microorganisms or malignant cells to new sites in the body; "the tumor's invasion of surrounding structures"
irradiation - (physiology) the spread of sensory neural impulses in the cortex
radiation - the spread of a group of organisms into new habitats
2.Spreading - the opening of a subject to widespread discussion and debatespreading - the opening of a subject to widespread discussion and debate
transmission - communication by means of transmitted signals
circulation - the dissemination of copies of periodicals (as newspapers or magazines)
propagation, extension - the spreading of something (a belief or practice) into new regions
3.spreading - act of extending over a wider scope or expanse of space or time
extension - act of expanding in scope; making more widely available; "extension of the program to all in need"
circulation - the spread or transmission of something (as news or money) to a wider group or area
dispersal, dispersion, dissemination, diffusion - the act of dispersing or diffusing something; "the dispersion of the troops"; "the diffusion of knowledge"
strewing, scatter, scattering - the act of scattering
decentralisation, decentralization - the spread of power away from the center to local branches or governments
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
References in classic literature ?
But the take kept spreading along and spreading along, and other people got to intruding themselves and taking up more and more room with their talk and their affairs.
After spreading her out so, and making such a to-do over her affairs, it would be absolutely necessary to account to the reader for her.
The little princess went round the table with quick, short, swaying steps, her workbag on her arm, and gaily spreading out her dress sat down on a sofa near the silver samovar, as if all she was doing was a pleasure to herself and to all around her.
But all I saw was the deep blue sky above, with one solitary star, and the white mist spreading wide and low beneath.
One may picture, too, the sudden shifting of the attention, the swiftly spreading coils and bellyings of that blackness advancing headlong, towering heavenward, turning the twi- light to a palpable darkness, a strange and horrible antagonist of vapour striding upon its victims, men and horses near it seen dimly, running, shrieking, falling headlong, shouts of dismay, the guns suddenly abandoned, men choking and writhing on the ground, and the swift broadening-out of the opaque cone of smoke.
First it is one place; then another; then some more; and it goes on spreading and spreading, and at last the ter- ritory is all occupied, and nobody can imagine what you feel like, nor how unpleasant it is.
The principal fibre traversing its length being split open a convenient distance, and the elastic sides of the aperture pressed apart, the head is inserted between them, the leaf drooping on one side, with its forward half turned jauntily up on the brows, and the remaining part spreading laterally behind the ears.
A PEACOCK spreading its gorgeous tail mocked a Crane that passed by, ridiculing the ashen hue of its plumage and saying, "I am robed, like a king, in gold and purple and all the colors of the rainbow; while you have not a bit of color on your wings." "True," replied the Crane; "but I soar to the heights of heaven and lift up my voice to the stars, while you walk below, like a cock, among the birds of the dunghill."
It is difficult to determine whether this is true due to the lack of studies on the epidural spreading patterns related to needle tip position in CESI.
Said to be a wonderfully creamy dip that is suitable for spreading, the refrigerated dip is mildly spiced, made with 100 percent Canadian milk, and contains no artificial colors or flavors.
Like its namesake cookie, Biscoff Spread contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, is free of trans fats and is an ideal sandwich spread for children with nut allergies.The spread has the unique caramelized flavor of Biscoff cookies and company officials say it is great for spreading on bagels and waffles, as a dip for fruit or as a topping for ice cream and other desserts.A one-tablespoon serving contains 88 calories.