trac·​tion | \ ˈtrak-shən How to pronounce traction (audio) \

Definition of traction

1a : the adhesive friction of a body on a surface on which it moves the traction of a wheel on a rail
b : a pulling force exerted on a skeletal structure (as in a fracture) by means of a special device a traction splint also : a state of tension created by such a pulling force a leg in traction
2 : the act of drawing : the state of being drawn also : the force exerted in drawing
3 : the support or interest that is needed for something to make progress or succeed a product that is starting to gain traction among consumers … the litmus test issues of abortion and gay marriage have been losing traction, subordinated to the Iraq war and terrorism.— Thomas B. Edsall As many economists have noted, cutting spending is the worst thing people with means can do for the economy right now. But that argument seems to have little traction, especially because even those with steady paychecks and no fear of losing their job have seen their net worth decline and their retirement savings evaporate.— Shaila Dewan
4 : the drawing of a vehicle by motive power also : the motive power employed

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Other Words from traction

tractional \ ˈtrak-​shnəl How to pronounce tractional (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective

Did You Know?

A tractor is something that pulls something else. We usually use the word for a piece of farm machinery, but it's also the name of the part of a big truck that includes the engine and the cab. Tractors get terrific traction, because of their powerful engines and the deep ridges on their huge wheels. A cross-country skier needs traction to kick herself forward, but doesn't want it to slow her down when she's gliding, so the bottom of the skis may have a "fish-scale" surface that permits both of these at the same time.

Examples of traction in a Sentence

These tires get good traction on wet roads. A patch of ice caused the car to lose traction. She was in traction for three weeks after she broke her hip. The bill failed to gain traction in the Senate. We didn't get traction on this idea until the board took interest.
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Recent Examples on the Web The idea of voting over the Internet gained traction after the 2000 Presidential election, when the country was thrown into a constitutional crisis owing, in part, to faulty voting machines. Sue Halpern, The New Yorker, "Why You Can’t Just Vote on Your Phone During the Pandemic," 19 June 2020 While protests against police brutality and racial injustice continue throughout the country, and campaigns to defund the police have gain traction, some counter protests in support of the police have begun. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "Georgia nonprofit raises funds for legal fees of officer charged with murder of Rayshard Brooks," 19 June 2020 The move to rename military bases has gained traction among some lawmakers following a string of protests (and some looting) triggered by the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis three weeks ago. Kerry Picket, Washington Examiner, "Sen. Kennedy says all military installations should be renamed after Medal of Honor winners," 16 June 2020 That approach is what's known as a warrior mindset, Terrill said, in contrast to the guardian mindset emphasizing social service that has gained traction in recent years. Harmeet Kaur, CNN, "Why some police officers rally around their colleagues -- even when they're accused of committing crimes," 13 June 2020 As a result, artists who may have a fuller portfolio but who have only gained traction in the preceding year due to a breakthrough hit could be entered to win the award. NBC News, "Recording Academy overhauls Grammy rules to build 'trust' in 'integrity of the awards'," 11 June 2020 Throughout Europe, radical right-wing parties with histories of Holocaust denial, Benito Mussolini infatuation, and fascist motifs have gained traction in recent years, moving from the fringes and into parliaments and even governing coalitions. Jason Horowitz,, "Coronavirus depletes the keepers of Europe’s memory," 6 June 2020 One name that has already gained traction within Golden State’s organization is forward Glenn Robinson III, who, before being traded to Philadelphia at the deadline, resuscitated his career in 48 games with the Warriors. Connor Letourneau,, "Warriors’ offseason primer: What must Golden State do to build a contender?," 6 June 2020 As protests fuel awareness of police brutality and spark calls to reform or disband police departments, the campaign to end policing in schools has also gained traction among some education groups and local teachers’ unions. Katie Reilly, Time, "'Police Do Not Belong in Our Schools.' Students Are Demanding an End to Campus Cops After the Death of George Floyd," 5 June 2020

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

1608, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for traction

Medieval Latin traction-, tractio, from Latin trahere

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Learn More about traction

Time Traveler for traction

Time Traveler

The first known use of traction was in 1608

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Statistics for traction

Last Updated

24 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Traction.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for traction


How to pronounce traction (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of traction

: the force that causes a moving thing to stick against the surface it is moving along
: the power that is used to pull something
medical : a way of treating broken bones in which a device gently pulls the bones back into place


trac·​tion | \ ˈtrak-shən How to pronounce traction (audio) \

Kids Definition of traction

: the force that causes a moving thing to slow down or to stick against the surface it is moving along The wheels get more traction when the road is dry.


trac·​tion | \ ˈtrak-shən How to pronounce traction (audio) \

Medical Definition of traction

1 : the pulling of or tension established in one body part by another
2 : a pulling force exerted on a skeletal structure (as in a fracture) by means of a special device or apparatus a traction splint also : a state of tension created by such a pulling force a leg in traction

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More from Merriam-Webster on traction

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with traction

Spanish Central: Translation of traction

Nglish: Translation of traction for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of traction for Arabic Speakers

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