\ ˈtrāl \
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 \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for trail

Synonyms: Verb

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

Synonyms: Noun

imprint, 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

Zuckerberg, who trails only Inc. founder Jeff Bezos and Microsoft Corp. Fortune, "Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Becomes the World’s Third-Richest Person, Passing Warren Buffett," 6 July 2018 Despite trailing Uber in the ride-hailing market, Lyft has managed to raise large sums of money that make deals like the Motivate acquisition possible. New York Times, "Lyft Follows Uber Into Bike-Sharing Lane, Buying Owner of CitiBike," 2 July 2018 The team then put away Morocco 1-0 despite trailing possession for most of the game, then tied Iran after a late penalty kick gave leveled the score in stoppage time. Julia Poe,, "How to Watch Uruguay vs. Portugal: World Cup Live Stream, TV Channel, Time," 30 June 2018 In those situations, Detroit had already been trailing by four runs or more, whereas the gaffes on Monday cost the Tigers the game. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers 'kicked in the gut' in 5-4 loss, their sixth straight," 25 June 2018 Among those experiencing labor-market gains are the less-educated and African-Americans, who trailed behind other groups for much of the economic expansion beginning in mid-2009. Sarah Chaney, WSJ, "Economic Confidence Rises Among Lower-Income Americans," 18 June 2018 Ermani Lewis came through with 15 points for Pink Ballers, who trailed 22-14 with about three-and-a-half minutes remaining before erupting for seven points off three steals to pull her team within a basket. Gary Curreri,, "Intermediate girls vie for the title in Coral Springs youth basketball," 17 June 2018 The burgundy, off-the-shoulder style was adorned with floral embellishments, which trailed down the side of her gown. Marina Liao, Marie Claire, "Scarlett Johansson Defends Her Decision to Wear Marchesa to the Met Gala," 8 May 2018 In her hair, Hadid wore a golden headpiece attached to a black lace veil that trailed on the floor behind her. Jillian Ruffo,, "Bella and Gigi Hadid's Met Gala Looks Are Major (and Majorly On-Theme)," 7 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Plans for the facilities include the use of energy- and water-saving technologies, green spaces that incorporate walking trails and bike paths, and expanded coworking spaces. Alex Bazeley, Curbed, "Ford taps Snøhetta to design new downtown Detroit campus," 26 June 2018 This part of the desert is wide open, with unmarked trails and rocky hills that give way to washes carved by rare rains. Elaine Murphy, Teen Vogue, "Volunteers Leaving Water for Migrants Traveling to the United States Border Are Helping Save Lives," 22 June 2018 The county built its first trail, McAlpine Greenway, in 1978. Bruce Henderson, charlotteobserver, "Mecklenburg wanted to build 129 miles of greenways by 2018. It hasn't even come close.," 1 June 2018 Regan’s case was the first one to put police on Kelly Cochran’s trail. Jeff Truesdell,, "Did an Alleged Serial Killer Cook Her Lover's Remains and Serve Them for Dinner?," 26 May 2018 Brandish your light sabers and leave a trail of pastel rose petals, astro babes. Bess Matassa, Teen Vogue, "Weekly Horoscopes July 16-22," 13 July 2018 This light, tiny, 10-liter hauler made from ripstop nylon hugs your back well enough for a trail run. Graham Averill, Outside Online, "The Daypacks We Use for Hiking," 11 July 2018 More broadly, Trump has shown deep disdain for NATO from his days on the campaign trail. Jonathan Allen /, NBC News, "Trump's European trip: Trade wars, Brexit chaos — and a Russia quandary," 10 July 2018 The team also developed a tool that helped inform where then-candidate Trump traveled on the campaign trail. Issie Lapowsky, WIRED, "Congress Grills Cambridge Analytica Alum on New Firm’s Data Use," 28 June 2018

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

11 Sep 2018

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 \
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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Comments on trail

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


alleviating pain or harshness

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