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 \ -​mənt How to pronounce derailment (audio) \ 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

Tech companies cannot be blamed for local policies that have helped to derail housing construction. Nellie Bowles, The Seattle Times, "San Francisco officials to tech workers: Leave the office, buy your lunch," 31 July 2018 His face became a staple of political ads in the 1988 presidential election, helping derail the presidential aspirations of then-governor Michael Dukakis. Jenifer Mckim,, "With aging prison population, Massachusetts looks to possible cost-saving, compassionate fix," 21 May 2018 The prospect of sweeping arrests, costly legal fees and political infighting helped derail plans for a demonstration, said activists who spoke with The Oregonian/OregonLive. Shane Dixon Kavanaugh,, "After last year's melee, Portland's anti-capitalists throw May Day picnic," 30 Apr. 2018 Buy Photo Chris Christie is no longer governor of New Jersey, but the political scandal that helped derail his bid for the White House hasn’t gone away. Andrew Seidman,, "Chris Christie is out, but Bridgegate appeals continue," 24 Apr. 2018 Arm trouble helped derail Johnson’s quest for the major-leagues. Henry Schulman, San Francisco Chronicle, "Why the Giants’ newcomers, prodigal sons are excited about home opener," 2 Apr. 2018 News in 2014 that FitzGerald had gone 10 years without a license helped derail his bid for governor that year. Mark Naymik,, "CLE Chatter: Ed FitzGerald to judge drivers without licenses; county sniffs out case of doggy doo-doo; Martin J. Sweeney's daughter defends her political home with bedroom picture," 8 Mar. 2018 In a small but significant way, Isaac helped derail Detroit’s hopes. Josh Robbins,, "Jonathan Isaac makes impact as Magic beat Pistons 115-106 in overtime," 3 Mar. 2018 But Tobias also pointed out that undisclosed writings of another Trump pick for judge, Brett Talley of Alabama, helped derail his nomination. Drew Broach,, "Wendy Vitter's judicial nomination falls under new scrutiny for questionnaire omissions," 2 Mar. 2018

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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Statistics for derail

Last Updated

24 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for derail

The first known use of derail was in 1850

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More Definitions for derail



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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with derail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


grandiloquent, ostentatious, or bombastic

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