Led vs. Lead

Posted: February 10th, 2014, 3:41 pm   By: brittany.corners

I’m gonna give you to the count of 10 to get your ugly, yella, no-good keister off my property before I pump your guts fulla lead!”—Johnny, in Kevin McAllister’s beloved Angels with Filthy Souls

You don’t need mom, dad, or Uncle Frank to explain the difference between using lead and led: we can do that right here. Although they each may mean completely different things, the fact that the two words can be homophones often steers unsuspecting writers into brackish waters—and no, I don’t mean the set of Octomom’s new “movie”.


This word has multiple meanings as both a noun and a verb, so we’ll simplify matters by zeroing in on the most common definitions:

  1. The verb lead (pronounced lēd) usually carries the meaning of causing progress or motion toward a destination or goal.
    Example: The executives hope the new Miller Lite punch top cans will lead people to think that they are drinking something other than fetid orangutan urine.
  2. As a noun pronounced the same way, lead often signifies setting an example, taking the initiative, or having an advantage.
    Example: With his odious That’s My Boy, Adam Sandler finally took the lead from Dane Cook on my list of “Crappiest Comedy Carbuncles.”
  3. However, when the noun lead is pronounced “led” with a short e sound, we’re talking about a metal or the graphite used in pencils.
    Example: Lead kept Superman from seeing Lois Lane’s underwear in the 1970s.


Pronounced led with a short e sound, this word only has one semantic purpose: it functions as the past tense and past participle of the verb lead.

Example: The ads for Taken 2 led me to believe that maybe it was a Funny or Die joke…but, unfortunately, it’s not.

Although this advice was free, you can keep the change, ya filthy animal.