paper trail


: documents (such as financial records) from which a person's actions may be traced or opinions learned

Examples of paper trail in a Sentence

They covered up the fraud and were careful not to leave a paper trail.
Recent Examples on the Web Envelopes stuffed with cash were routinely sent by courier to girlfriends and parents, to avoid a direct paper trail to the players. Guy Lawson, Rolling Stone, 24 Mar. 2024 Sometimes even a meticulous paper trail and a polite request isn’t enough. Christopher Elliott, King Features Syndicate, The Mercury News, 5 Feb. 2024 Moreover, trial protocols that require in-clinic pregnancy testing could create paper trails, which may pose legal risks for both participants and clinical research staff. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, 23 June 2023 On Wednesday, in a letter to a Senate committee probing Boeing, the National Transportation Safety Board said its investigation has been held back by Boeing’s lack of a paper trail for key evidence. Angus Watson, CNN, 13 Mar. 2024 The service creates a paper trail visible to both the whistleblower and the business accused of misbehavior—but one that’s stored on third-party infrastructure to prevent it being doctored. Joel Khalili, WIRED, 26 Feb. 2024 Paleontologists have gone back to the original bones, as well as the dinosaur’s paper trail through the history of science, to reintroduce us to Megalosaurus as a bipedal predator that wandered along the Jurassic coastline. Riley Black, Smithsonian Magazine, 8 Feb. 2024 No paper trail, no damning soundbites; just a slogan crewneck. Mattie Kahn, Vogue, 22 Jan. 2024 But time and again, Bradford used her clout and legal skills behind the scenes to assist her pedophile uncle, according to a paper trail of letters and other legal records. Lewis Kamb, NBC News, 13 May 2023

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

Word History

First Known Use

1935, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of paper trail was in 1935

Dictionary Entries Near paper trail

Cite this Entry

“Paper trail.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

paper trail

: documents (as financial records or published materials) from which a person's actions may be traced or opinions learned
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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