adj. dead·er, dead·est
1. Having lost life; no longer alive.
2. Marked for certain death; doomed: knew when he saw the soldiers that he was a dead man.
a. Having the physical appearance of death: a dead pallor.
b. Lacking feeling or sensitivity; numb or unresponsive: Passersby were dead to our pleas for help.
c. Weary and worn-out; exhausted.
a. Not having the capacity to live; inanimate or inert.
b. Not having the capacity to produce or sustain life; barren: dead soil.
a. No longer in existence, use, or operation: a dead language.
b. No longer having significance or relevance: a dead issue.
c. Physically inactive; dormant: a dead volcano.
a. Not commercially productive; idle: dead capital.
b. Not circulating or running; stagnant: dead water; dead air.
a. Devoid of human or vehicular activity; quiet: a dead town.
b. Lacking all animation, excitement, or activity; dull: The party being dead, we left early.
8. Having no resonance. Used of sounds.
9. Having grown cold; having been extinguished: dead coals; a dead flame.
10. Lacking elasticity or bounce: That tennis ball is dead.
a. Not working because of a fault or breakdown: The motor is dead. The phone is dead.
b. Not connected to a source of electric current: a dead wire.
c. Drained of electric charge; discharged: a dead battery.
a. Sudden; abrupt: a dead stop.
b. Complete; utter: dead silence.
c. Exact; unerring: the dead center of a target.
13. Sports Out of play. Used of a ball.
1. (used with a pl. verb) People who have died: respect for the dead.
2. The period exhibiting the greatest degree of intensity: the dead of winter; the dead of night.
1. Absolutely; altogether: You can be dead sure of my innocence.
2. Directly; exactly: There's a gas station dead ahead.
3. Suddenly: She stopped dead on the stairway.
dead and buried
No longer in use or under consideration: All past animosities are dead and buried now.
dead in the water
Unable to function or move: The crippled ship was dead in the water. With no leadership, the project was dead in the water.
dead to rights
In the very act of making an error or committing a crime: The police caught the thief dead to rights with my silverware.
dead to the world
over my dead body
Used to express dramatic refusal.
[Middle English ded, from Old English dēad; see dheu-2 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: dead, deceased, departed, late, extinct, lifeless
These adjectives all mean without life. Dead applies in general to whatever once had—but no longer has—physical life (a dead body; a dead leaf), but is also applied to function (a dead battery) and force or currency (a dead issue; a dead language). Deceased and departed are polite or euphemistic terms referring only to people: attended a memorial service for a recently deceased friend; looking at pictures of departed relatives. Late is also restricted to people and usually implies recent death: a gift in memory of her late husband. Extinct can refer to what has no living successors (extinct species such as the dodo) or to what is extinguished or inactive (an extinct volcano). Lifeless applies to what no longer has physical life (a lifeless body), to what does not support life (a lifeless planet), or to what lacks animation, spirit, or brightness (a lifeless performance; lifeless colors).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.