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Woman wearing a dress.


From Middle English, from Old French dresser, drescer, drecier (to erect, set up, arrange, dress), from Medieval Latin *directiō, an assumed frequentive, from Latin directus (straight, direct), perfect passive participle of dīrigō (straighten, direct), from dis- (asunder, in pieces, apart, in two) + regō (make straight, rule). See direct.



dress (countable and uncountable, plural dresses)

  1. (countable) An item of clothing (usually worn by a woman or young girl) which both covers the upper part of the body and includes skirts below the waist.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 2, The China Governess[1]:
      Now that she had rested and had fed from the luncheon tray Mrs. Broome had just removed, she had reverted to her normal gaiety.  She looked cool in a grey tailored cotton dress with a terracotta scarf and shoes and her hair a black silk helmet.
    Amy and Mary looked very pretty in their dresses.
  2. (uncountable) Apparel, clothing.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 6, The China Governess[2]:
      Even in an era when individuality in dress is a cult, his clothes were noticeable. He was wearing a hard hat of the low round kind favoured by hunting men, and with it a black duffle-coat lined with white.
    He came to the party in formal dress.
  3. The system of furrows on the face of a millstone.
  4. A dress rehearsal.

Derived terms[edit]



dress (third-person singular simple present dresses, present participle dressing, simple past dressed, past participle dressed or (obsolete) drest)

  1. (obsolete, reflexive, intransitive) To prepare oneself; to make ready. [14th-16thc.]
    • 1485, Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur, Book IV, chapter xviij:
      but syr Gawayns spere brak / but sir marhaus spere helde / And therwith syre Gawayne and his hors russhed doune to the erthe / And lyghtly syre Gawayne rose on his feet / and pulled out his swerd / and dressyd hym toward syr Marhaus on foote
  2. To adorn, ornament. [from 15thc.]
    It was time to dress the windows for Christmas again.
    • Tennyson
      dressing their hair with the white sea flower
    • Carlyle
      If he felt obliged to expostulate, he might have dressed his censures in a kinder form.
  3. (nautical) To ornament (a ship) by hoisting the national colours at the peak and mastheads, and setting the jack forward; when "dressed full", the signal flags and pennants are added.
  4. (transitive) To treat (a wound, or wounded person). [from 15thc.]
  5. (transitive) To prepare (food) for cooking, especially by seasoning it. [from 15thc.]
  6. (transitive) To fit out with the necessary clothing; to clothe, put clothes on (something or someone). [from 15thc.]
    He was dressed in the latest fashions.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 6, The China Governess[3]:
      ‘[…] I remember a lady coming to inspect St. Mary's Home where I was brought up and seeing us all in our lovely Elizabethan uniforms we were so proud of, and bursting into tears all over us because “it was wicked to dress us like charity children”. []’.
  7. (intransitive) To clothe oneself; to put on clothes. [from 18thc.]
    I rose and dressed before daybreak.  It's very cold out. Dress warm.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 2, The Celebrity:
      Sunning himself on the board steps, I saw for the first time Mr. Farquhar Fenelon Cooke. He was dressed out in broad gaiters and bright tweeds, like an English tourist, and his face might have belonged to Dagon, idol of the Philistines.
  8. (intransitive) Of a man, to allow the genitals to fall to one side or other of the trousers. [from 20thc.]
    Does sir dress to the right or the left?
  9. To prepare for use; to fit for any use; to render suitable for an intended purpose; to get ready.
    to dress leather or cloth;  to dress a garden;  to dress grain, by cleansing it;  in mining and metallurgy, to dress ores, by sorting and separating them
    • Bible, Exodus xxx. 7
      When he dresseth the lamps he shall burn incense.
    • Dryden
      three hundred horses [] smoothly dressed
  10. (transitive) To prepare the surface of (a material; usually stone or lumber).
  11. (military, transitive, intransitive) To arrange in exact continuity of line, as soldiers; commonly to adjust to a straight line and at proper distance; to align. Sometimes an imperative command.
    to dress the ranks
    Right, dress!
  12. To break and train for use, as a horse or other animal.


  • (clothe (something or somebody)): clothe
  • (clothe oneself): get dressed
  • (prepare the surface of):
  • (bandage (a wound)): bandage, put a bandage on, put a dressing on


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


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