trace

1 of 3

noun (1)

1
a
: a minute and often barely detectable amount or indication
a trace of a smile
b
: an amount of a chemical constituent not always quantitatively determinable because of minuteness
2
a
: a mark or line left by something that has passed
also : footprint
b
: a path, trail, or road made by the passage of animals, people, or vehicles
3
a
: a sign or evidence of some past thing : vestige
b
: engram
4
: something (such as a line) traced or drawn: such as
a
: the marking made by a recording instrument (such as a seismograph or kymograph)
b
: the ground plan of a military installation or position either on a map or on the ground
5
a
: the intersection of a line or plane with a plane
b
: the usually bright line or spot that moves across the screen of a cathode-ray tube
also : the path taken by such a line or spot
6
archaic : a course or path that one follows
traceless adjective

trace

2 of 3

verb

traced; tracing

transitive verb

1
b
: to form (letters, figures, etc.) carefully or painstakingly
c
: to copy (something, such as a drawing) by following the lines or letters as seen through a transparent superimposed sheet
d
: to impress or imprint (a design or pattern) with a tracer
e
: to record a tracing of in the form of a curved, wavy, or broken line
trace the heart action
f
: to adorn with linear ornamentation (such as tracery or chasing)
2
a
: to follow or study out in detail or step by step
trace the history of the war
b
: to discover by going backward over the evidence step by step
trace your ancestry
c
: to discover signs, evidence, or remains of
d
: to follow the footprints, track, or trail of
3
: to lay out the trace of (a military installation)
4
archaic : to travel over : traverse

intransitive verb

1
: to make one's way
especially : to follow a track or trail
2
: to be traceable historically
traceability noun

trace

3 of 3

noun (2)

1
: either of two straps, chains, or lines of a harness for attaching a draft animal to something (such as a vehicle) to be drawn
2
3
: one or more vascular bundles supplying a leaf or twig
Choose the Right Synonym for trace

trace, vestige, track mean a perceptible sign made by something that has passed.

trace may suggest any line, mark, or discernible effect.

the killer left no traces

vestige applies to a tangible reminder such as a fragment or remnant of what is past and gone.

boulders that are vestiges of the last ice age

track implies a continuous line that can be followed.

the fossilized tracks of dinosaurs

Example Sentences

Verb The children traced their hands onto the sidewalk with chalk. You can put a piece of paper over the pattern and trace it. She traced the letters of her name. We will need to trace the electrical wires through the walls. The word “amiable” traces back to the Latin word for “friend.”

Word History

Etymology

Noun (1)

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from tracer to trace

Verb

Middle English, from Anglo-French tracer, from Vulgar Latin *tractiare to drag, from Latin tractus, past participle of trahere to pull

Noun (2)

Middle English trais, from Anglo-French tres, plural of trait pull, draft, trace — more at trait

First Known Use

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 6

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of trace was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near trace

Cite this Entry

“Trace.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trace. Accessed 4 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

trace

1 of 3 noun
1
2
: a mark left by something that has passed or is past
3
: a very small amount

trace

2 of 3 verb
traced; tracing
1
b
: to form (as letters) carefully
c
: to copy (as a drawing or pattern) by following the lines or letters as seen through a transparent sheet placed over the thing copied
d
: to make a graphic record of by a recording instrument
trace the heart action
2
a
: to follow the footprints, track, or trail of
b
: to study, follow, or show the development and progress of in detail
traceable adjective

trace

3 of 3 noun
: either of two straps, chains, or lines of a harness for attaching a horse to something (as a wagon or plow) to be pulled

Medical Definition

trace

noun
1
: the marking made by a recording instrument (as a kymograph)
2
: an amount of a chemical constituent not always quantitatively determinable because of minuteness
3
: engram
trace transitive verb
traceable adjective

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