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to draw, stretch, or open out, especially over a flat surface, as something rolled or folded (often followed by out).
to stretch out or unfurl in the air, as folded wings, a flag, etc. (often followed by out).
to distribute over a greater or a relatively great area of space or time (often followed by out):
to spread out the papers on the table.
to display or exhibit the full extent of; set out in full:
He spread the pots on the ground and started hawking his wares.
to dispose or distribute in a sheet or layer:
to spread hay to dry.
to apply in a thin layer or coating:
to spread butter on a slice of bread.
to overlay or cover with something:
She spread the blanket over her knees.
to set or prepare (a table), as for a meal.
to extend or distribute over a region, place, period of time, among a group, etc.
to send out, scatter, or shed in various directions, as sound, light, etc.
to scatter abroad; diffuse or disseminate, as knowledge, news, disease, etc.:
to spread the word of the gospel.
to move or force apart:
He spread his arms over his head in surrender.
to flatten out:
to spread the end of a rivet by hammering.

to extend the aperture between (the lips) laterally, so as to reduce it vertically, during an utterance.
to delabialize.
Compare 1 (def 55c), .

to become stretched out or extended, as a flag in the wind; expand, as in growth.
to extend over a greater or a considerable area or period:
The factory spread along the river front.
to be or lie outspread or fully extended or displayed, as a landscape or scene.
to admit of being spread or applied in a thin layer, as a soft substance:
Margarine spreads easily.
to become extended or distributed over a region, as population, animals, plants, etc.
to become shed abroad, diffused, or disseminated, as light, influences, rumors, ideas, infection, etc.
to be forced apart, as the rails of a railroad track; separate.
an act or instance of spreading:
With a spread of her arms the actress acknowledged the applause.
expansion, extension, or diffusion:
the spread of consumerism.
the extent of spreading:
to measure the spread of branches.

the difference between the prices bid and asked of stock or a commodity for a given time.
a type of straddle in which the call price is placed above and the put price is placed below the current market quotation.
the difference between any two prices or rates for related costs:
the widening spread between lending and borrowing costs.
Stock Exchange. a broker’s profit or the difference between his or her buying and selling price.
any difference between return on assets and costs of liabilities.

capacity for spreading:
the spread of an elastic material.
a distance or range, as between two points or dates:
The long-distance movers planned a five-day spread between pickup and delivery.
a stretch, expanse, or extent of something:
a spread of timber.
a cloth covering for a bed, table, or the like, especially a bedspread.
Informal. an abundance of food set out on a table; feast.
any food preparation for spreading on bread, crackers, etc., as jam or peanut butter.
Aeronautics, .
Also called layout. Journalism. (in newspapers and magazines) an extensive, varied treatment of a subject, consisting primarily either of a number of cuts (picture spread) or of a major story and several supplementary stories, usually extending across three or more columns.
Compare .
an advertisement, photograph, article, or the like, covering several columns, a full page, or two facing pages of a newspaper, magazine, book, etc.:
a full-page spread; a two-page spread.
two facing pages, as of a newspaper, magazine, or book.
landed property, as a farm or ranch.
1 (def 40).
Jewelry. (of a gem) cut with the table too large and the crown too shallow for maximum brilliance; swindled.
Phonetics. (of the opening between the lips) extended laterally.
Compare (def 2), .
spread oneself thin, to carry on so many projects simultaneously that none is done adequately, or that one’s health suffers:
Many college students spread themselves thin by taking on too many activities during the semester.
Contemporary Examples

Decomposing corpses led to a rampant plague so severe it spread to Syria.
In Threatening Baghdad, Militants Seek to Undo 800 Years of History Justin Marozzi August 15, 2014

Salmonella is spread through the fecal matter of animals and humans.
6 Things You Should Know About Salmonella The Daily Beast August 16, 2010

Hurst also spread the blame to police, who he said had been aware of the computer hacking but failed to alert him.
Murdoch’s Next Scandal Could Be Computer Hacking Mike Giglio February 20, 2012

The speculation—something casual fans are mostly unaware of—has spread from the blogosphere to the mainstream.
Tennis Has a Doping Problem Sujay Kumar July 7, 2013

They spread ancient and vicious stereotypes about Jews, of course.
The GOP’s Jewish Slur Peter Beinart October 20, 2009

Historical Examples

It is nothing to the way you can spread it with two quarts of soft soap.
Peck’s Bad Boy and His Pa George W. Peck

Of course, we all like to play with fire, but I always put it out before it can spread.
Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Meanwhile the news had spread that there was a relapse and that the doom impended.
The Royal Life Guard Alexander Dumas (pere)

We began the 19th century with a choice, to spread our nation from coast to coast.
United States Presidents’ Inaugural Speeches Various

At last the news was spread that the duke had sent an ambassador.
Chicot the Jester Alexandre Dumas, Pere

verb spreads, spreading, spread
to extend or unfold or be extended or unfolded to the fullest width: she spread the map on the table
to extend or cause to extend over a larger expanse of space or time: the milk spread all over the floor, the political unrest spread over several years
to apply or be applied in a coating: butter does not spread very well when cold
to distribute or be distributed over an area or region
to display or be displayed in its fullest extent: the landscape spread before us
(transitive) to prepare (a table) for a meal
(transitive) to lay out (a meal) on a table
to send or be sent out in all directions; disseminate or be disseminated: someone has been spreading rumours, the disease spread quickly
(of rails, wires, etc) to force or be forced apart
to increase the breadth of (a part), esp to flatten the head of a rivet by pressing, hammering, or forging
(transitive) (agriculture)

to lay out (hay) in a relatively thin layer to dry
to scatter (seed, manure, etc) over a relatively wide area

(informal) (transitive) often foll by around. to make (oneself) agreeable to a large number of people, often of the opposite sex
(phonetics) to narrow and lengthen the aperture of (the lips) as for the articulation of a front vowel, such as (iː) in English see (siː)
the act or process of spreading; diffusion, dispersal, expansion, etc: the spread of the Christian religion
(informal) the wingspan of an aircraft
an extent of space or time; stretch: a spread of 50 years
(informal, mainly US & Canadian) a ranch or relatively large tract of land
the limit of something fully extended: the spread of a bird’s wings
a covering for a table or bed
(informal) a large meal or feast, esp when it is laid out on a table
a food which can be spread on bread, etc: salmon spread
two facing pages in a book or other publication
a widening of the hips and waist: middle-age spread
(stock exchange)

the difference between the bid and offer prices quoted by a market maker
the excess of the price at which stock is offered for public sale over the price paid for the same stock by an underwriter
(mainly US) a double option Compare straddle (sense 9)

(jewellery) the apparent size of a gemstone when viewed from above expressed in carats: a diamond with a spread of four carats
extended or stretched out, esp to the fullest extent
(of a gem) shallow and flat

(of the lips) forming a long narrow aperture
(of speech sounds) articulated with spread lips: (iː) in English “feel” is a spread vowel


c.1200, “to stretch out, to send in various directions,” probably from Old English -sprædan (especially in tosprædan “to spread out,” and gesprædung “spreading”), from Proto-Germanic *spraidijanan (cf. Danish sprede, Old Swedish spreda, Middle Dutch spreiden, Old High German and German spreiten “to spread”), probably from PIE *sper- “to strew” (see sprout (v.)). Reflexive sense of “to extend, expand” is attested from mid-14c.

1690s, “extent or expanse of something,” from spread (v.). Meaning “copious meal” dates from 1822; sense of “food for spreading” (butter, jam, etc.) is from 1812. Sense of “bed cover” is recorded from 1848, originally American English. Meaning “degree of variation” is attested from 1929. Meaning “ranch for raising cattle” is attested from 1927.

noun phrase

The free market in petroleum, outside the price scales set by the producers’ organization

[1982+; spot oil is found by 1888]


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