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From Middle English dreden, from Old English drǣdan (to fear, dread), aphetic form of ondrǣdan (to fear, dread), from and- +‎ rǣdan (whence read); corresponding to an aphesis of earlier adread.

Akin to Old Saxon antdrādan, andrādan (to fear, dread), Old High German intrātan (to fear), Middle High German entrāten (to fear, dread, frighten).


  • enPR: drĕd, IPA(key): /dɹɛd/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛd


dread (third-person singular simple present dreads, present participle dreading, simple past and past participle dreaded)

  1. (transitive) To fear greatly.
  2. To anticipate with fear.
    I'm dreading getting the results of the test, as it could decide my whole life.
    • 1877, Anna Sewell, Black Beauty Chapter 22[1]
      Day by day, hole by hole our bearing reins were shortened, and instead of looking forward with pleasure to having my harness put on as I used to do, I began to dread it.
  3. (intransitive) To be in dread, or great fear.
  4. (transitive) To style (the hair) into dreadlocks.

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dread (countable and uncountable, plural dreads)

  1. Great fear in view of impending evil; fearful apprehension of danger; anticipatory terror.
    my visit to the doctor is filling me with dread
    • a. 1694, John Tillotson, The Advantages of Religion to particular Persons
      the secret dread of divine displeasure
    • c. 1599–1602, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act III, scene i]:
      the dread of something after death
    • 2014 April 12, Michael Inwood, “Martin Heidegger: the philosopher who fell for Hitler [print version: Hitler's philosopher]”, in The Daily Telegraph (Review)[2], London, page R11:
      In 1928 [Martin] Heidegger succeeded [Edmund] Husserl to take a chair at Freiburg and in his inaugural lecture made a pronouncement that earned him a reputation as an archetypal metaphysician with his claim that our awareness of people as a whole depends on our experience of dread in the face of nothingness.
  2. Reverential or respectful fear; awe.
  3. Somebody or something dreaded.
  4. (obsolete) A person highly revered.
  5. (obsolete) Fury; dreadfulness.
  6. A Rastafarian.
  7. (chiefly in the plural) dreadlock
    • 2006, Earl Stevens, Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels (lyrics), Lil Jon (music), “Tell Me When To Go”, in My Ghetto Report Card:
      Jesus Christ had dreads / So shake 'em / I ain't got none / But I'm planning on growing some.

Derived terms[edit]



dread (comparative dreader, superlative dreadest)

  1. Terrible; greatly feared; dreaded.
    • 1879, Arthur Sullivan, 'The Pirates of Penzance', Gilbert & Sullivan:
      With cat-like tread / Upon our prey we steal / In silence dread / Our cautious way we feel
    • 1887, H. Rider Haggard, She: A History of Adventure[3]:
      I even remember thinking that no human being would go down that dread path again.
  2. (archaic) Awe-inspiring; held in fearful awe.
    • 1633, John Hay, editor, The Acts Made in the First Parliament of our Most High and Dread Soveraigne Charles, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britaine, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c.: Holden by Himselfe, Present in Person, with His Three Estates, at Edinburgh, upon the Twentie Eight Day of Iune, Anno Domini 1633, Edinburgh: Printed by Robert Young, printer to the Kings most excellent Maiestie, OCLC 606535094:
      The acts made in the first Parliament of our most high and dread soveraigne Charles [I], by the grace of God, King of Great Britaine, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, &c. [] [book title]

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Alternative forms[edit]


dread m (plural dreads)

  1. Clipping of dreadlock.