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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Senate Democrats derailed that plan last week as the yearlong saga continued with legislators refusing to vote in favor of tolls, despite months of work on the issue by Lamont’s transportation and finance teams. Christopher Keating,, "New Democratic plan scraps cars and proposes truck-only tolls at 12 sites across Connecticut; Lamont wants all sides to meet soon," 19 Nov. 2019 But though her cousins have been derailed by fame or injury, Vinesh Phogat continues her climb to the pinnacle of the sport. The Economist, "In the ring with India’s most powerful woman," 25 Oct. 2019 Senior quarterback Jordan Hoy’s departure with a collarbone injury early in the second quarter completely derailed Lamar’s offense. Matt Foye,, "Copeland throws 4 TD passes as UIW knocks off Lamar," 19 Oct. 2019 But back when Venkatesh was a graduate student at Princeton University around the turn of the millennium, the genius myth almost derailed his budding career. Quanta Magazine, "A Number Theorist Who Bridges Math and Time," 1 Aug. 2018 Marion County firefighters arrived after 1:20 a.m. and found nine cars derailed, according to a news release from the agency. oregonlive, "Train derails north of Salem," 29 Sep. 2019 The firm is trying to derail the investigation by arguing that the CFPB was set up in violation of the constitutional separation of powers. Los Angeles Times, "Trump administration asks Supreme Court to limit CFPB’s independence," 17 Sep. 2019 The book details all of the ways Weinstein tried to derail and delay the NYT's investigation. Brian Stelter, CNN, "'She Said:' New book recounts the reporting that revealed Harvey Weinstein's abuses," 9 Sep. 2019 Fire Chief Jay Kolakowski said the slow-moving cars apparently derailed sometime before 4:30 a.m., but said Pan Am Railways didn’t notify police or firefighters., "Freight train derails in Bristol, dumping tons of debris," 10 July 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about derail

Time Traveler for derail

Time Traveler

The first known use of derail was in 1850

See more words from the same year

Statistics for derail

Last Updated

1 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Derail.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 7 December 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on derail

What made you want to look up derail? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the study of flags

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Semantic Drift Quiz

  • a twisty river
  • Which of the following was once a synonym for fun?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!