\ ˈtrāl How to pronounce trail (audio) \
trailed; trailing; trails

Definition of trail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to hang down so as to drag along or sweep the ground
b : to extend over a surface in a loose or straggling manner a vine that trails over the ground
c : to grow to such length as to droop over toward the ground trailing branches of a weeping birch
2a : to walk or proceed draggingly, heavily, or wearily : plod, trudge
b : to lag behind : do poorly in relation to others
3 : to move, flow, or extend slowly in thin streams smoke trailing from chimneys
4a : to extend in an erratic or uneven course or line : straggle
b : dwindle her voice trailing off
5 : to follow a trail : track game

transitive verb

1a : to draw or drag loosely along a surface : allow to sweep the ground
b : haul, tow
2a : to drag (something, such as a limb or the body) heavily or wearily
b : to carry or bring along as an addition, burden, or encumbrance
c : to draw along in one's wake
3a : to follow upon the scent or trace of : track
b : to follow in the footsteps of : pursue
c : to follow along behind
d : to lag behind (someone, such as a competitor)



Definition of trail (Entry 2 of 2)

1a(1) : a track made by passage especially through a wilderness
(2) : a marked or established path or route especially through a forest or mountainous region
b : a trace or mark left by something that has passed or been drawn along : scent, track a trail of blood
c : a course followed or to be followed hit the campaign trail
2a : something that follows or moves along as if being drawn along : train a trail of admirers
b : a chain of consequences : aftermath the … movement left a trail of bitterness and prejudice behind it— Paul Blanshard
c(1) : the streak produced by a meteor
(2) : a continuous line produced photographically by permitting the image of a celestial body (such as a star) to move over the plate
3 : something that trails or is trailed: such as
a : a trailing plant
b : the train of a gown
c : a trailing arrangement (as of flowers) : spray
d : the part of a gun carriage that rests on the ground when the piece is unlimbered

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Other Words from trail


trailless \ ˈtrāl-​ləs How to pronounce trailless (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for trail

Synonyms: Verb

bird-dog, chase, course, dog, follow, hound, pursue, run, shadow, tag, tail, trace, track

Synonyms: Noun

footpath, path, pathway, trace, track

Antonyms: Verb

guide, lead, pilot

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Choose the Right Synonym for trail


chase, pursue, follow, trail mean to go after or on the track of something or someone. chase implies going swiftly after and trying to overtake something fleeing or running. a dog chasing a cat pursue suggests a continuing effort to overtake, reach, or attain. pursued the criminal through narrow streets follow puts less emphasis upon speed or intent to overtake. friends followed me home in their car trail may stress a following of tracks or traces rather than a visible object. trail deer trailed a suspect across the country

Examples of trail in a Sentence


The little girl went to her room, trailing her teddy bear behind her. The dog's leash was trailing along the ground. The little girl's teddy bear trailed behind her. He trailed us as we worked our way up the mountain. The President is trailing in the polls as the election approaches. We were trailing by 3 runs at the end of the 6th inning. Our team trailed their team at the end of the 6th inning.


Stay on the trail if we get separated. The car left a trail of smoke as it sped off. following the trail to success
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Reaching the final wasn’t easy for a Male team that trailed 1-0 early and managed just three hits against Clay County senior left-hander Brianda Owens. Jason Frakes, The Courier-Journal, "Male softball team survives scare against Clay County, advances to state final," 15 June 2019 On their website, Bicycle Way of Life has maps of the bike trails in and around Eugene. Scott Mcmurren, Anchorage Daily News, "In Eugene, Oregon, a good mood is ‘just a bike ride away’," 15 June 2019 Durant returned to the court for Game 5, his first action in more than a month after suffering a right calf strain during the second round of the playoffs, in the hopes of helping Golden State, which trailed 3-1 in the series, stave off elimination. Ben Golliver,, "Kevin Durant is ‘going to miss next season,’ Steve Kerr says," 14 June 2019 Apocalypse is now imagined as an internet-era digital explosion, and the climate crisis is suggested by images of fire-trailing bodies and a temperature-tracking map superimposed on the sphere. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, "Review: After 27 Years, Meredith Monk’s ‘Atlas’ Returns to Earth," 12 June 2019 The only way to rise above the 1-percenters (the trailing candidates in the polls, not the wealthy targets of Warren’s oratory) is to climb out of the crowded base camp one agonizing step at a time. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "On the Oratory Trail in Iowa," 11 June 2019 On Monday, the Decatur Parks and Recreation Department warned residents to be on alert after an alligator was spotted on the walking trails at Port Mallard State Park. Leada Gore |,, "Alligator found on North Alabama road; video shows larger gator in Tennessee River," 11 June 2019 Throw in the 56 miles of Emerald Necklace trails that already intersect the Towpath outside the urban core, and the network will come to 150 miles within Cuyahoga County. Steven Litt,, "Burning River legacy: Towpath Trail spurs rediscovery of Cuyahoga Valley, erasing east-west divide," 9 June 2019 The game showcased a U.S. offensive attack that is at its strongest in years, if not ever, as well as the lingering questions that will trail the Americans to France, where the World Cup kicks off June 7. ... Rachel Bachman, WSJ, "U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Heads Into World Cup on a Winning Note," 26 May 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The closest trails are along the river — and there is a beautiful 15-mile ride along both banks. Scott Mcmurren, Anchorage Daily News, "In Eugene, Oregon, a good mood is ‘just a bike ride away’," 15 June 2019 Hike Attempting to label record setters on the trail can be complicated and confusing. Mary Beth Skylis, Outside Online, "How Jeff Garmire Set the Arizona Trail FKT," 15 June 2019 The trail has been in development for several years with organizers from two states working with the National Park Service, SE Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and the Fox River Ecosystem Partnership, officials said. Beacon-news Staff, Aurora Beacon-News, "Workshops planned to share information about Fox River Water Trail," 14 June 2019 The trail was included as a priority in the Department of Natural Resources’ 2001 Open Lands Master Plan. Pamela Johnson, The Denver Post, "Grant sought to finish Poudre River Trail in Larimer County, Timnath, Windsor and Fort Collins," 14 June 2019 The public trail off Highland Valley Road is popular with hikers, cyclists and equestrians. Ramona Sentinel, "Supervisors expand grasslands preserve," 13 June 2019 The trail to finding her killer was cold for many years. Wire Service, The Mercury News, "Thanks to DNA sleuths, a Lake Tahoe Jane Doe killed 37 years ago might finally get a headstone with her name on it," 10 June 2019 The trails are easy to follow and fairly level with a gradual ascent to the overlook. Peter Marteka,, "A view with three trees and so much more on top of Bull Hill in Thompson," 7 June 2019 Money trail Ars wasn't able to reach co-founders Wolfe and Lunn or CFO Perley. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "The secretive nonprofit that made millions suing companies over cancer warnings," 6 June 2019

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


13th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for trail


Middle English, perhaps from Anglo-French *trailer, alteration of trainer to drag, trail on the ground — more at train

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Statistics for trail

Last Updated

19 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for trail

The first known use of trail was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for trail



English Language Learners Definition of trail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to pull (something) behind you especially on the ground
: to be pulled behind someone or something
: to walk or move slowly as you follow behind (someone or something)



English Language Learners Definition of trail (Entry 2 of 2)

: a path through a forest, field, etc.
: the marks, signs, smells, etc., that are left behind by someone or something and that can often be followed
: a route that someone follows to go somewhere or achieve something


\ ˈtrāl How to pronounce trail (audio) \
trailed; trailing

Kids Definition of trail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to drag or draw along behind The horse trailed its reins.
2 : to become weak, soft, or less The sound trailed off.
3 : to follow in the tracks of : pursue Police trailed the robbers.
4 : to hang down, rest on, or creep over the ground trailing vines
5 : to lag behind After a mile, I trailed the other runners.



Kids Definition of trail (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a trace or mark left by something that has passed or been drawn along The dog left a trail of mud on the carpet.
2 : a beaten path
3 : a path marked through a forest or mountainous region hiking trails

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More from Merriam-Webster on trail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with trail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for trail

Spanish Central: Translation of trail

Nglish: Translation of trail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of trail for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about trail

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