paper trail


Definition of 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

Though there has been a push to digitize medical records, the tangled evolution of e-health technology has, for many patients, led to a fragmented paper trail filled with gaps. Angela Chen, The Verge, "Amazon will reportedly sell software that reads medical records," 27 Nov. 2018 Records from the radios were a key part of the paper trail laid out in the affidavits supporting the criminal complaints against the troopers. Martin Finucane,, "Key evidence in alleged trooper overtime scam came from cruiser radios," 27 June 2018 His brother’s finances, supervised by the court, have more of a paper trail. Joseph Neff, New York Times, "They Did 30 Years for Someone Else’s Crime. Then Paid for It.," 7 Apr. 2018 Joy Reid has got an amazing second chance going right now after a paper trail of homophobia. Fox News, "ABC axes 'Roseanne' following star's racially-charged tweet," 30 May 2018 And government watchdog investigators are now systematically building a paper trail of Pruitt’s time at the EPA. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Every legal and ethical investigation into the EPA’s Scott Pruitt we know of so far," 12 Apr. 2018 Five states use voting machines that don't produce an auditable paper trail of ballots, which the committee said should be the minimum security standard. Chris Megerian,, "U.S. election systems need stronger defenses against cyberattacks, senators warn," 20 Mar. 2018 Kavanaugh, who worked for Ken Starr on the Clinton investigation and also for the Bush White House, was deemed vulnerable over the long paper trail from those jobs and his tenure on the bench. Howard Kurtz, Fox News, "The Media's Mixed Signals: How Trump got to Brett Kavanaugh," 9 July 2018 The paper trail stretching from 1999 to 2012 was irrefutable, leading the three defendants to plead guilty with no plea deal. Jay Weaver, miamiherald, "This couple stole millions from an MIA lounge. Now they’re doing prison time. | Miami Herald," 5 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'paper trail.' 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 paper trail

1935, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about paper trail

Share paper trail

Statistics for paper trail

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for paper trail

The first known use of paper trail was in 1935

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for paper trail

paper trail


English Language Learners Definition of paper trail

: documents (such as financial records or memos) that make it possible for someone at a later time to know what was done, discussed, etc.

More from Merriam-Webster on paper trail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with paper trail

Comments on paper trail

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


having a pattern of small flowers

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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!