Complete Definition of "deadhead"

From dead + head.


  1. A person either admitted to a theatrical or musical performance without charge, or paid to attend

#*1901 R. J. Broadbent, A History of Pantomime
#*:Among the Romans.... The free admission tickets were small ivory death's heads, and specimens of these are to be seen in the Museum of Naples. From this custom, it is stated, that we derive our word "Deadhead," as denoting one who has a free entrance to places of amusement.

  1. 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.

#*2002, w:Steven Spielberg|Steven Spielberg, w:Catch Me if You Can|Catch Me If You Can,
#*:Are you my deadhead to Miami?

  1. Anyone traveling for free.

#*1873, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and Charles Dudley Warner, The Gilded Age, Part 4.
#*:With the check came two through ticketsâgood on the railroad from Hawkeye to Washington via New Yorkâand they were "deadhead" tickets, too, which had been given to Senator Dilworthy by the railway companies. 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 doâdeclined to receive the mileage tendered them by the government. The Senator had plenty of railway passes, and could. easily spare two to Lauraâone for herself and one for a male escort.
#*1882, Bret Harte, Found At Blazing Star
#*:I reckon I won't take the vote of any deadhead passenger.
#*1904, Gideon Wurdz, The Foolish Dictionary
#*:PASSENGER One who does not travel on a pass. (Antonym for Deadhead). From Eng. pass, to go, and Grk. endidomi, to give up. One who has to give up to go.
#*1908, Wallace Irwin, The Love Sonnets of a Car Conductor
#*:The yap that kicks and rings a deadhead call
#*:Must either spend or else get off the car.

  1. A train or truck moved between cities with no passengers or freight, in order to make it available for service
  2. A person staying at a lodging, such as a hotel or boarding house, without paying rent; freeloader.

#*1872, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr, The Poet At The Breakfast Table
#*:For the Caput mortuum (or deadhead, in vulgar phrase) is apt to be furnished with a Venter vivus, or, as we may say, a lively appetite.
#*1922, Rex Beach, Flowing Gold
#*: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. Oh, murder!

  1. A stupid or boring person; dullard

#* 1967, w:James Jones (author)|James Jones, Go to the Widow-Maker, Delacorte Press (1967), 72,
#*: "Listen, you two deadheads," he growled at them, more viciously energetic than he meant, and both turned to stare. He softened his tone. "What's going on here, anyway? What kind of a morgue is this? Is this any way to spend my last four days in town? Come on, let's all go out and do something."

  1. slang Driftwood.
  2. slang A fan of the rock band the w:Grateful Dead|Grateful Dead.


  1. intransitive To travel as a deadhead, or non-paying passenger.
  2. context|transitive|intransitive To drive an empty vehicle.

#*2006, Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day, Vintage 2007, p. 845:
#*:Kit had fallen into conversation with a footplate man who was deadheading back out to Samarkand, where he lived with his wife and children.

  1. transitive To send (a person or message) for free.

#*1873, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and Charles Dudley Warner, The Gilded Age, Part 4.
#*: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.
#*1910, Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin, Edison, His Life and Inventions
#*:He said that if the operator had taken $800 and sent the message at the regular rate, which was twenty-five cents, it would have been all right, as the Jew would be punished for trying to bribe a military operator; but when the operator took the $800 and then sent the message deadhead, he couldn't stand it, and he would never relent.
#*1934, Lester Dent (as Kenneth Robeson), Brand Of The Werewolf, A Doc Savage Adventure
#*:"I'll deadhead the message for you, Mr. Savage. It won't cost a thing."

  1. transitive To remove spent or dead blossoms from a plant.

#:If you deadhead your roses regularly, they will bloom all season.


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