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 Among other top firms paid for political consulting by the party or the super PAC are a handful of limited-liability companies with little public presence or paper trails, obscuring the names of those who are running these businesses. Author: Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Anu Narayanswamy, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump’s 2016 campaign was run on a shoestring. His reelection machine is huge - and armed with consultants.," 9 Oct. 2019 These rules were often unspoken and enforced without a paper trail. Eli Rosenberg, Washington Post, "Conservatives claim Elizabeth Warren lied about pregnancy firing. Women reality-checked them on social media.," 9 Oct. 2019 The teen's family has pressured the Vatican to open its archives to search for possible paper trails related to the case. Fox News, "Expert says Vatican space holds bones of dozens amid bid to solve girl’s 1983 disappearance," 20 July 2019 The state requires extensive machine testing prior to elections, paper trails, and audits of a random 1% of ballots to ensure vote count accuracy. Hadley Hitson, Fortune, "Just How Regulated Are Our Nation’s Elections?," 4 Dec. 2019 More recently, states and counties have switched to machines that offer electronic options: optical scanners and machines that mark ballots for voters — most with paper trails and some without. Jessica Huseman, ProPublica, "The Market for Voting Machines Is Broken. This Company Has Thrived in It.," 28 Oct. 2019 Buckley’s accidental death left many unanswered questions but this assemblage of journal entries, music-industry paper trail and fragments of songs written on scraps of paper helps fill in the blanks. Los Angeles Times, "11 anticipated music books this fall," 13 Sep. 2019 There are new voting machines in use that allow for a paper trail. Dylan Mcguinness,, "Early voting: What you need to know," 17 Oct. 2019 And with precincts now fielding both in-person and early vote tallies, Democrats are finalizing software contracted to tabulate the results with a paper trail. Alexander Tin, CBS News, "Nevada's new caucus rules present challenges for 2020 Democrats," 14 Nov. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of paper trail

1935, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of paper trail was in 1935

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Last Updated

17 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Paper trail.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 24 January 2020.

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More Definitions for paper trail

paper trail


English Language Learners Definition of paper trail

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

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with paper trail

Comments on paper trail

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a feeling of well-being or elation

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