tread water


verb (used without object), trod, trodden or trod, treading.
to set down the foot or feet in walking; step; walk.
to step, walk, or trample so as to press, crush, or injure something (usually followed by on or upon ): to tread on a person's foot.
(of a male bird) to copulate.
verb (used with object), trod, trodden or trod, treading.
to step or walk on, about, in, or along.
to trample or crush underfoot.
to form by the action of walking or trampling: to tread a path.
to treat with disdainful harshness or cruelty; crush; oppress.
to perform by walking or dancing: to tread a measure.
(of a male bird) to copulate with (a female bird).
the action of treading, stepping, or walking.
the sound of footsteps.
manner of treading or walking.
a single step as in walking.
any of various things or parts on which a person or thing treads, stands, or moves.
the part of the under surface of the foot or of a shoe that touches the ground.
the horizontal upper surface of a step in a stair, on which the foot is placed.
the part of a wheel, tire, or runner that bears on the road, rail, etc. See diag. under tire2.
the pattern raised on or cut into the face of a rubber tire.
Railroads. that part of a rail in contact with the treads of wheels.
tread on someone's toes/corns, to offend or irritate someone.
tread the boards, to act on the stage, especially professionally: He recalled the days when he had trod the boards.
tread water,
Swimming. to maintain the body erect in the water with the head above the surface usually by a pumping up-and-down movement of the legs and sometimes the arms.
Slang. to make efforts that maintain but do not further one's status, progress, or performance: He's just treading water here until he can find another job.

before 900; (v.) Middle English treden, Old English tredan; cognate with Old Frisian treda, Old Saxon tredan, Dutch treden, German treten; akin to Old Norse trotha, Gothic trudan; (noun) Middle English tred footprint, derivative of the v.

treader, noun
overtread, noun
subtread, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
tread (trɛd)
vb (when intr, foll by on) (sometimes foll by on) , treads, treading, trod, trodden, trod
1.  to walk or trample in, on, over, or across (something)
2.  to crush or squash by or as if by treading: to tread grapes; to tread on a spider
3.  to subdue or repress, as by doing injury (to): to tread on one's inferiors
4.  (tr) to do by walking or dancing: to tread a measure
5.  (tr) (of a male bird) to copulate with (a female bird)
6.  tread lightly to proceed with delicacy or tact
7.  tread on someone's toes to offend or insult someone, esp by infringing on his sphere of action, etc
8.  tread water to stay afloat in an upright position by moving the legs in a walking motion
9.  a manner or style of walking, dancing, etc: a light tread
10.  the act of treading
11.  the top surface of a step in a staircase
12.  the outer part of a tyre or wheel that makes contact with the road, esp the grooved surface of a pneumatic tyre
13.  the part of a rail that wheels touch
14.  the part of a shoe that is generally in contact with the ground
15.  vet science an injury to a horse's foot caused by the opposite foot, or the foot of another horse
16.  a rare word for footprint
[Old English tredan; related to Old Norse trotha , Old High German tretan, Swedish träda]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. tredan (class V strong verb; past tense træd, pp. treden), from P.Gmc. *tredanan (cf. O.Fris. treda, M.Du. treden, O.H.G. tretan, Ger. treten, Goth. trudan, O.N. troða). The noun is recorded from early 13c., from the verb; in reference to automobile tires, it is recorded from 1906. Treadmill
invented (and named) 1822 by William Cubitt of Ipswich, England; originally an instrument of prison discipline.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

tread water

Expend effort that maintains one's status but does not make much progress toward a goal, as in He was just treading water from paycheck to paycheck. This idiom alludes to the term's literal meaning, that is, "keep one's head above water by remaining upright and pumping the legs."

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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