\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

Unbeaten teams: Both teams were unbeaten in the group stage, and France has trailed for only nine minutes in the entire tournament. Graham Dunbar,, "A Youthful France Faces Veteran-Laden Croatia For World Cup," 14 July 2018 In a Gallup World Poll, global approval of Russia’s leadership, while still low at 27 percent, has inched up every year since 2014 — and now trails the U.S. approval rating by just three percentage points. Washington Post, "How the Kremlin turned the Russian president into a global icon," 12 July 2018 Playing in only his second full major league season, Bregman has 17 home runs — two off his career high — and trails just Evan Gattis for the team lead. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "5 Astros selected to AL All-Star team," 9 July 2018 There’s not a ton of polling on the primary, but what there is shows Arpaio consistently trailing both McSally and Ward with McSally in the lead. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Power Rankings: Not so peachy primaries," 9 July 2018 The Cleveland National Forest has been shutting down the Cedar Creek Falls and Three Sisters Falls trails for several years now during hot weather. J. Harry Jones,, "Popular trails closed due to heat concerns," 5 July 2018 Gallo fouled off eight pitches, including five consecutive pitches with two runners on and two outs and Texas trailing 5-3. Stefan Stevenson, star-telegram, "Rangers Reaction: Enjoy the enjoyable even if your team stinks," 4 July 2018 Sunday night's news that LeBron James is headed to Laker Land on a four-year, $154 million deal pushed the team's title odds to 7/2 — trailing only the Golden State Warriors (10/11 odds) and tied with the Boston Celtics. Aj Neuharth-keusch, USA TODAY, "Lakers have second-best odds to win championship after landing LeBron James," 2 July 2018 Both New Hampshire Frost museums have short nature trails, with signs displaying excerpts of Frost’s poetry. Tyler Malone,, "The road taken by Robert Frost through New England," 29 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Try these: Hiking aficionados, stick to walking down the center of trails. Kate Sheridan, SELF, "Here’s Exactly What to Do if a Tick Bites You," 14 July 2018 Here is a look at how each Big 12 program (plus Texas A&M) is doing on the trail so far, according to 247Sports. William Wilkerson, star-telegram, "Big 12 + A&M recruiting: Where each team ranks nationally in 2019," 28 June 2018 Earlier this month, the Iditarod governing board revised its rule concerning dog deaths on the trail. Tegan Hanlon, Anchorage Daily News, "Review board upholds Yukon Quest ban of two-time champ from 2019 race," 27 June 2018 Each page of his swimming hole guidebooks is designed to be torn out and taken with you on the trail. Lauren Steele, WSJ, "America’s Best Secluded Swimming Holes—and How to Find Them," 20 June 2018 Overall, it's been a successful June for the Beavers on the recruiting trail, but losing Piferi to Purdue was a minor blow. Andrew Nemec,, "Paul Piferi, nation's No. 20 pro-style QB, commits to Purdue over Oregon State," 12 June 2018 Third, and this is probably the biggest item in terms of importance, Nickelberry's commitment reflects the early work Mack and his assistants have put in on the recruiting trail. Jeff Greer, The Courier-Journal, "Why Josh Nickelberry is such a big get for Louisville basketball," 1 June 2018 Our NBC News team writes that Republicans are hoping to keep Trump on the trail for midterms and keep Senate Democrats from campaigning by scheduling judicial nominee votes. NBC News, "First Read's Morning Clips: Steyer accuses Pelosi of 'normalizing' Trump," 29 May 2018 Bring any natural materials to build your own fairy house on the trail. Courant Community, "Community News For The Hebron Edition," 29 May 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

23 Oct 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).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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