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

Definition of derail

transitive verb

1 : to cause to run off the rails
2a : to obstruct the progress of : frustrate security problems derailed the tour
b : to upset the stability or composure of divorce … can seriously derail an employee— Joanne Gordon

intransitive verb

: to leave the rails

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Other Words from derail

derailment \ di-​ˈrāl-​mənt How to pronounce derailment (audio) , dē-​ \ 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 Despite its resolve, the N.F.L. is starting to acknowledge that the virus may derail its plans to open the season on time and in front of fans. Ken Belson, New York Times, "Can the N.F.L. Really Return to Normal This Fall?," 11 May 2020 This time, a plunge in oil prices added to weeks of concern that the spreading coronavirus will derail the the global economy. Sarah Ponczek, Fortune, "Market-wide stock trading halts after S&P 500 falls 7%," 9 Mar. 2020 Costly rail line improvements, a new train station and interference with freight trains loomed Thursday as the chief concerns that could derail efforts to bring passenger trains back to Mobile. al, "‘Unanswered questions’ linger over Mobile’s Amtrak commitment," 20 Dec. 2019 In that context, the skimpy mask supply in the Strategic National Stockpile is not the thing that derailed the American response to COVID-19. Olga Khazan, The Atlantic, "How the Richest Country on Earth Started Running Out of Masks," 10 Apr. 2020 After revealing the heartbreaking reason behind her decade-long absence from music in a February social media post, Grammy-winning singer Duffy is further detailing the harrowing ordeal that derailed her life and career. Rachel Yang,, "Duffy shares harrowing new details on rape and kidnapping in essay, talks possible return to music," 6 Apr. 2020 The expansion of unemployment benefits became a point of contention that could potentially derail efforts to quickly bring the measure to the Senate floor for final passage. Grace Segers, CBS News, "Senators threaten to delay coronavirus stimulus bill in dispute over benefits," 25 Mar. 2020 But the fast spreading new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, is posing a triple-threat to action that could derail the Paris Agreement effort to combat global warming, worried experts say. Justin Worland, Time, "How Coronavirus Could Set Back the Fight Against Climate Change," 10 Mar. 2020 After the last-minute introduction of an amendment in House Bill 1279 that could derail IndyGo and the future of mass transit in Indianapolis, many city leaders have spoken up about how this could affect their constituents. Kellie Hwang, Indianapolis Star, "What city leaders say about bill that could derail IndyGo projects," 5 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'derail.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of derail

1850, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for derail

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

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Time Traveler for derail

Time Traveler

The first known use of derail was in 1850

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Statistics for derail

Last Updated

18 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Derail.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for derail


How to pronounce derail (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of derail

of a train : to leave its tracks
: to cause (a train) to leave its tracks


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

Kids Definition of derail

1 : to leave or cause to leave the rails The train derailed.
2 : to make progress or success difficult for Injuries derailed his plan for a championship.

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More from Merriam-Webster on derail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for derail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with derail

Spanish Central: Translation of derail

Nglish: Translation of derail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of derail for Arabic Speakers

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