Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A person who uses a free ticket for admittance, accommodation, or entertainment.
  • noun A vehicle, such as an aircraft, that transports no passengers or freight during a trip.
  • noun Informal A person regarded as dull-witted or sluggish.
  • noun A log or trunk that is partially submerged or lying just beneath the surface.
  • intransitive verb To pilot or drive (a vehicle) carrying no passengers or freight.
  • intransitive verb To remove dead or withered flowers from (a plant), especially to promote new blooms or prevent the setting of seeds.
  • intransitive verb To make a trip without passengers or freight.
  • intransitive verb To pilot or drive a vehicle on such a trip.
  • intransitive verb To bypass a senior employee in order to promote a more junior employee.
  • adverb Without passengers or freight; empty.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun One who is allowed to ride in a public conveyance, to attend a theater or other place of entertainment, or to obtain any privilege having its public price, without payment.
  • noun In founding: The extra length of metal given to a cast gun.
  • noun The tailstock of a lathe. It contains the dead-spindle and back-center, while the live-head or headstock contains the live-spindle.
  • noun Nautical, a rough block of wood used as an anchor-buoy.
  • To provide free passage, admission, etc., for; pass or admit without payment, as on a railroad or into a theater: as, to deadhead a passenger, or a guest at a hotel.
  • To travel on a train, steamboat, etc., or gain admission to a theater or similar place, without payment.
  • noun In lumbering, a sunken or partly sunken log.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Colloq. U. S. One who receives free tickets for theaters, public conveyances, etc.
  • noun (Naut.) A buoy. See under Dead, a.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A person either admitted to a theatrical or musical performance without charge, or paid to attend
  • noun An employee of a transportation company, especially a pilot, traveling as a passenger for logistical reasons, for example to return home or travel to their next assignment.
  • noun Anyone traveling for free.
  • noun A train or truck moved between cities with no passengers or freight, in order to make it available for service
  • noun A person staying at a lodging, such as a hotel or boarding house, without paying rent; freeloader.
  • noun A stupid or boring person; dullard
  • noun slang Driftwood.
  • noun slang A fan of the rock band the Grateful Dead (usually Deadhead).
  • noun slang A zombie.
  • verb intransitive To travel as a deadhead, or non-paying passenger.
  • verb transitive, intransitive To drive an empty vehicle.
  • verb transitive To send (a person or message) for free.
  • verb transitive To remove spent or dead blossoms from a plant.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a train or bus or taxi traveling empty
  • noun a nonenterprising person who is not paying his way

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From dead +‎ head.

Examples

  • Though I'm not really what you'd call a deadhead, at the end of the week in which it becomes apparent that our prime minister has declared war on culture — literally — the first thing I want to do is throw up some Grateful Dead.

    Peace, order and good government, eh?: August 2008 Archives

  • One of the fun bits of being a deadhead is the links it brings.deadsongs. vue.21

    The WELL: Bird Song

  • While the plant company behind Knock-Out roses claims you don't need to "deadhead," or remove their spent blooms, I find the plants look at lot neater, and seem to create fresh buds quicker, if you perform that chore.

    Tough Love, Garden Style

  • Similarly, third-party carriers are in a better position to reduce "deadhead" travel, which is any travel by trucks when they are empty.

    Crude Calculations

  • I also told him that I had promised to "deadhead" ex-Governor Harney and family (consisting at that time of wife and one child, a daughter fifteen years old) to the states and when they arrived in Kansas City, Missouri, he was to see that they got a pass over the road to New York City.

    The Second William Penn A true account of incidents that happened along the old Santa Fe Trail

  • Haviland had a sense of humor; it would make a story too good to keep -- the new oil operator, the magnificent and mysterious New York financier, a "deadhead" at the Ajax.

    Flowing Gold

  • In efforts, certainly justifiable, to discover the reason for the failure of the theatrical season, some people have made quite a ferocious attack upon the "deadhead," who really has nothing to do with the case.

    Our Stage and Its Critics By "E.F.S." of "The Westminster Gazette"

  • The next kind of deadhead is the unprofessional first-night deadhead, a mixture of personal friends of the manager, the author, the principal players and of "the backers," if any.

    Our Stage and Its Critics By "E.F.S." of "The Westminster Gazette"

  • Washington suggested that she get some old friend of the family to come with her, and said the Senator would "deadhead" him home again as soon as he had grown tired, of the sights of the capital.

    The Gilded Age, Part 4.

  • Senators and representatives were paid thousands of dollars by the government for traveling expenses, but they always traveled "deadhead" both ways, and then did as any honorable, high-minded men would naturally do -- declined to receive the mileage tendered them by the government.

    The Gilded Age, Part 4.

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