trac·tion | \ ˈtrak-shən \

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, -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

Democrats and those who want to defend the FBI and Russia investigation haven't gained much traction trying to argue otherwise. Amber Phillips, Washington Post, "Peter Strzok, the symbol of whatever you want him to be in the Russia investigation," 13 July 2018 More than four years later, EveryBlock is available in 10 markets, including Boston, Denver, Houston, Philadelphia and Seattle, but the service hasn’t gained much traction outside of its Chicago home base, Segal said. Robert Channick,, "Comcast to end hyperlocal site EveryBlock, agrees to send users to rival Nextdoor," 12 July 2018 But carbon-pricing efforts backed by Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, and other lawmakers haven't gained much traction. Phuong Le, The Christian Science Monitor, "Carbon fee measure poised for Washington State ballot," 3 July 2018 The #DeleteFacebook movement didn’t really gain much traction. Recode Staff, Recode, "Full transcript: Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna on Recode Decode," 15 June 2018 And the farm-to-table movement has gained so much traction in recent years. Todd Plummer, Vogue, "This Oyster-and-Caviar Pop-Up Is Shaking Up Boston’s Culinary Scene," 4 June 2018 The initiative hasn't gained much traction, Chamandy said. Bloomberg,, "American Apparel is reopening exactly one store, and it's in Los Angeles," 4 May 2018 Bringing iOS apps to the Mac gives the Mac access to a new, vibrant, and robust software ecosystem—that's welcome, as the Mac App Store has struggled to gain as much traction. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, "Apple is actively working on Macs that replace Intel CPUs," 2 Apr. 2018 The piece failed to gain much traction in the chaos of the election’s final days. Dylan Matthews, Vox, "The definitive guide to the Stormy Daniels scandal," 24 Mar. 2018

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

Statistics for traction

Last Updated

5 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for traction

The first known use of traction was in 1608

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More Definitions for traction



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 \

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 \

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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Comments on traction

What made you want to look up traction? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


alleviating pain or harshness

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