What does the phrase "lead on" mean and how would it be used in idiomatic English?

I came across the phrase in a text describing a user interface test, which talked about avoiding bias by "avoiding leading users on". I do understand the meaning here, but I'm interested in what the expression means more generally and how it would be used in other sentences.

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    There isn't necessarily any deception involved in leading somebody on, it could be in the sense of "leading someone on a path or journey" for example. But I believe that is the correct idiom. Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 10:00
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    In your context, "to lead someone" means to point them in the right direcction (as Max as indicated). But as Josh61 has indicated "to lead on" can mean 'to deceive'. Depending on the rest of the sentence (which you have omitted), the "on" may be superfluous and "avoiding leading users" may be sufficient.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 10:30

2 Answers 2


The context you are asking about does not necessarily invoke deception.

I also work in UX.

When testing user interfaces you need to ensure you don't inadvertently force your test candidate to use the interface in a certain way simply because of the way you ask questions.

If, for example, you want to discover if your users can find the button that starts a particular function then you would avoid asking them to 'click the button in the top corner of the screen'. To avoid 'leading them on' you might instead ask 'How could you start function A?'. This means that the only thing you have put in their mind is 'Function A' and how to start it rather than setting them looking for a button in a particular part of the screen.


When I grew up in Scotland, many used it misquoting Shakespeare's Macbeth and would say "Lead on Macduff" as if to say "go on then, you show us the way."

Correct term was "Lay on Macduff" when Macbeth wanted him to start fighting

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