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 An inspector would most likely issue a violation, which may not solve your problem immediately but would create a paper trail of evidence. New York Times, 11 June 2022 James told the court that their testimony was necessary because Trump and his company had allegedly gone to great lengths to avoid creating a paper trail for their potentially improper activities. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 10 Feb. 2022 The only paper trail indicates the pizza almost certainly started in 1943 at a 19th century mansion built with lumber money at 29 E. Ohio St. — the restaurant now known as Pizzeria Uno. Chicago Tribune Staff, Chicago Tribune, 5 June 2022 Tom points out that there isn't always a paper trail. Katie Hafner, Scientific American, 2 June 2022 Officials said the ring ran a classic straw-purchasing scheme, in which someone buys a gun for someone else who typically can’t legally buy one or doesn’t want to leave a paper trail. NBC News, 11 Apr. 2022 The archival material allows students of politics to follow the paper trail from a Goodwin draft to a Johnson speech, then to a Congressional bill, and finally to federal law. New York Times, 12 Apr. 2022 The relationship ended, but the repercussions of it — a digital paper trail allegedly left by Lentz on his work computer — would be professionally, and personally, devastating. Lanford Beard,, 24 Mar. 2022 Though officials in various countries have attributed ownership of yachts to Russian oligarchs, the paper trail between ship and owner is typically obscured, running through shell companies and complicated legal structures. Bob Ortega, CNN, 24 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of paper trail

1935, in the meaning defined above

Learn More About paper trail

Time Traveler for paper trail

Time Traveler

The first known use of paper trail was in 1935

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near paper trail

paper towel

paper trail


See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for paper trail

Last Updated

28 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Paper trail.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jun. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Food

  • a-light
  • Name these cookies!
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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