v. dread·ed, dread·ing, dreads
1. To be in terror of; fear intensely: "What I most dreaded as a child was the close danger of the atomic bomb" (James Carroll).
2. To anticipate with alarm, distaste, or reluctance: We dreaded the long drive home.
3. Archaic To hold in awe or reverence.
To be very afraid.
a. Profound fear; terror: "the dread of a fire that would end not just my life but everyone else's" (Jan Clausen).
b. Fearful or anxious anticipation: the dread of saying something foolish on stage. See Synonyms at fear.
c. An instance of fear or fearful anticipation: His dreads about school finally subsided.
d. A source of fear, awe, or reverence: The author's greatest dread is that the book will go unnoticed.
a. A dreadlock: She wears her hair in dreads.
b. A person who wears dreadlocks.
3. Archaic Awe; reverence.
1. Causing terror or fear: a dread disease. See Usage Note below.
2. Inspiring awe: the dread presence of the headmaster.
[Middle English dreden, short for adreden, from Old English adrǣdan, from ondrǣdan, to advise against, fear : ond-, and-, against; see UN-2 + rǣdan, to advise; see ar- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: The adjective dread meaning "causing terror or fear" is often supplanted by the participle adjective dreaded. In our 2015 survey, 88 percent of the Usage Panel found the use of dreaded acceptable in the sentence After communicating with the enemy, Corporal Adams was labeled with the dreaded epithet "traitor." By contrast, only 69 percent of the Panel found the use of dread in the same sentence acceptable, while roughly one-third found its use unacceptable. It seems that dreaded is not merely gaining ground as an alternative to dread but actually replacing it as the adjective of choice to mean "causing fear."
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.