de·​rail di-ˈrāl How to pronounce derail (audio)
derailed; derailing; derails

transitive verb

: to cause to run off the rails
: to obstruct the progress of : frustrate
security problems derailed the tour
: to upset the stability or composure of
divorce … can seriously derail an employeeJoanne Gordon

intransitive verb

: to leave the rails
derailment noun

Examples of derail in a Sentence

The train derailed in heavy snow. The train was derailed by heavy snow.
Recent Examples on the Web The year before, one of its oil trains derailed outside Mosier, Oregon, spilling 47,000 gallons of crude into the Columbia River Gorge. Danelle Morton, ProPublica, 18 Nov. 2023 Large swaths of agency activities are derailed for shutdown prep, wasting vast sums of taxpayer money. Jeff Stein, Washington Post, 17 Nov. 2023 Eight years later, aides to another sitting president, Barack Obama, reviewing public and private polls, concluded that concern among voters about the lingering effects of the Great Recession and the direction of the nation could derail his hopes for a second term. Adam Nagourney, New York Times, 16 Nov. 2023 Last year, another indictment outlined how Chinese agents allegedly tried to derail the congressional campaign of a Chinese dissident. Donie O'Sullivan, CNN, 13 Nov. 2023 The issue derailed talks for more than a week last month before studios returned to the table. TIME, 11 Nov. 2023 In the power vacuum, Law and Justice supporters have been trying to derail the decision by questioning the legitimacy of the vote. Alex Marshall, New York Times, 6 Nov. 2023 The effort to normalize ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, until recently the focus of much attention by the U.S. and Israeli governments, took a major hit by the Hamas attack, which aimed to derail it. Assaf Orion, Foreign Affairs, 3 Nov. 2023 Rodgers is, of course, no stranger to working under pressure, so the weight of this finality didn’t derail him in the process. Cait Bazemore, Robb Report, 1 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'derail.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French dérailler to throw off the track, from dé- de- + rail, from English

First Known Use

1850, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of derail was in 1850

Dictionary Entries Near derail

Cite this Entry

“Derail.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


de·​rail di-ˈrā(ə)l How to pronounce derail (audio)
: to cause to run off the rails
a train derailed by heavy snow
derailment noun

More from Merriam-Webster on derail

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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