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 one-off game has gained some traction in the past few years, and has attracted top teams such as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester United., "MLS All-Star Game: Everything You Need to Know About the Event," 30 July 2019 The risk of having to close nuclear plants has led their owners to ask the federal government for a bailout, a move that initially gained some traction but has since stalled out. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Hypocritical Ohio law links nuke support to coal subsidies, cuts off renewables," 24 July 2019 News of the protest in Wuhan in Hubei province trickled out on Chinese social media, but was largely censored once the story gained some traction as local authorities failed to gain immediate control of the march. Robyn Dixon,, "First Hong Kong protested. Now it’s Wuhan, China. What makes it Beijing’s latest headache?," 5 July 2019 The campaign is also struggling to gain any traction among black voters, a key constituency that figures to make or break Democratic presidential campaigns. CBS News, "Buttigieg raised a lot of money ... now what?," 3 July 2019 On Tuesday, the family said Lorenzen had been placed on dialysis but was gaining some traction in his treatments. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "Former Kentucky football quarterback Jared Lorenzen dies at age 38," 2 July 2019 Last week, Nixon’s efforts finally began to gain some traction. Washington Post, "‘He wants this so bad’: A widower’s quest for answers in Virginia Beach takes its toll," 1 July 2019 Lesser-known candidates, meanwhile, struggled to gain any traction., "Who won the second 2020 Democratic debate? Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg ... and policy wonks," 27 June 2019 The intervention could also give Sanders some traction when the two dozen Democratic contenders begin to compete for endorsements from the nation’s biggest labor unions. Laura Litvan, Fortune, "Bernie Sanders Rips 'Grotesque' Greed and 'Starvation Wages' at Walmart Shareholder Meeting," 5 June 2019

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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Statistics for traction

Last Updated

8 Aug 2019

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 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

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).


a period when something is suspended

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