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 Then Twitter came along and offered a new and treacherous kind of paper trail. Mark Leibovich, New York Times, "Neera Tanden: First Cabinet-Level Casualty of the Twitter Age?," 25 Feb. 2021 These stereotypes are unfair and inaccurate, but often don’t produce the kind of paper trail needed to prove this sort of discrimination in court. Washington Post, "The first millennials turn 40 on Jan. 1. That’s old enough to sue for age discrimination.," 29 Dec. 2020 And the city’s auditor in 2016 flagged similar problems, saying housing officials failed to keep an adequate paper trail documenting how about $30 million in taxpayer dollars were used on roughly 54 housing projects. Kevin Krause, Dallas News, "Dallas City Hall corruption scandals continue with another developer accused of bribery scheme," 17 Dec. 2020 These payments were made in cash to conceal the paper trail to Legal Genius and also hide the payments from the IRS. Jc Reindl, Detroit Free Press, "Metro Detroit law firms tied to schemes to solicit crash victims," 25 Dec. 2020 With the numbers of sick children seemingly on the rise, Rhinehart and Davidson became alarmed by a paper trail of documents showing ongoing problems with the cleanup. CBS News, "Seeking to solve a pediatric cancer mystery," 13 Dec. 2020 Shilo has a paper trail of lender lawsuits, bankruptcies and foreclosures dating back a decade. oregonlive, "A third of Oregon’s Paycheck Protection Program money went to 1.6% of loan recipients," 4 Dec. 2020 In Connecticut, votes are cast by paper ballots and counted by optical scanners, which are not linked to the internet, providing both a paper trail and a safeguard against hacking. Mark Pazniokas,, "Voter fraud is real and it happens sometimes in Connecticut, but not on the scale claimed by President Trump," 15 Nov. 2020 This hibernation holiday, the safest global itinerary may be a paper trail, traveled via books — as personal fireside reading or as gifts. Washington Post, "No travel plans? Try three new books about the nexus of travel and design.," 30 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for paper trail

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The first known use of paper trail was in 1935

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Last Updated

28 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Paper trail.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

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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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