\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

And Democrat Stacey Abrams, who served as the minority leader of Georgia’s House of Representatives before running to become Georgia and the nation’s first black female governor, trails Republican Brian Kemp by about 75,000 votes. Caroline Houck, Vox, "Muslim women, Native Americans, and LGBTQ candidates had a night of historic wins," 7 Nov. 2018 The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, is still spending money in all three—even in North Dakota, where Ms. Heitkamp is trailing by double digits against Mr. Cramer. Joshua Jamerson, WSJ, "Pittsburgh Shooting, Pipe-Bomb Arrest Colors Campaigning for Midterm Election," 28 Oct. 2018 Three days later, Jace Peterson got thrown out stealing in a game the Orioles were trailing by four in the late innings. Peter Schmuck,, "Schmuck: During season on the brink, Orioles are losing the head games, too," 14 July 2018 According to Stats LLC, the Reds are only NL franchise to trail by 17 runs that early in a game. Bobby Nightengale,, "Cincinnati Reds end up on wrong side of history in lopsided loss to Cleveland Indians," 11 July 2018 Australia enters the day trailing Denmark by three points and by two in goal differential. Luis Miguel Echegaray,, "LIVE: Australia Fights for Its World Cup Knockout Stage Life vs. Peru," 26 June 2018 Costa, who also scored two goals in the opening match, has three goals at this year’s World Cup, trailing Cristiano Ronaldo by one., "Ball bounces Spain’s way in win over Iran," 20 June 2018 With 4:03 remaining in the fourth quarter, and his team trailing by 25 points, Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue waved the flag and pulled the emotional rip cord. Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle, "Warriors’ 3rd title wasn’t easy, but it was dynastic," 11 June 2018 Pinch-hitting with the bases loaded, two outs in the sixth inning and the Brewers trailing Philadelphia by a run Saturday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, Choi wasn't going to go down quietly, however. Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "As it turned out, it was the Phillies who were in trouble, not Brewers hero Ji-Man Choi," 9 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Sport this sleek piece on the trails (or at the kids’ soccer games or the grocery store) now, and under a ski shell later. Sara Kennedy, The Seattle Times, "5 jackets for fall hikes and ski-season layering," 22 Oct. 2018 Now, with humans flooding the area and routinely relieving themselves on various hiking trails, the goats have developed an insatiable thirst for urine, which serves as a strong source of salt and minerals. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Mountain Goats Are Being Airlifted Out of a National Park Because They Crave Human Pee," 28 Sep. 2018 One of the best ways to explore Capri is by walking on trails that lead you to remote, beautiful landscapes. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "La DoubleJ Designer JJ Martin Shares Her Guide to Adventuring in Italy," 26 Sep. 2018 The program appears to be on solid footing with plenty of experienced players on the roster along with solid work on the recruiting trails. Matt Murschel,, "Steady Kansas State is No. 44 in 2018 preseason college football rankings," 14 July 2018 Trees and benches, with dedicatory plaques, are the most common donations that appear in parks, at beaches, on trails and along streets. Hillary Davis,, "Newport Beach City Council considers increasing fees for fire inspections," 11 July 2018 Stay on trails and avoid walking through vegetation. Anna Groves, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin DHS reports first death by Rocky Mountain spotted fever," 10 July 2018 Hikers in the park were not ordered to evacuate, but are advised to use caution on trails with stream crossings. Mark Price, charlotteobserver, "Campers told to get out quickly as rain creates torrent of water at campground," 28 June 2018 Using clues, individuals and/or groups can hunt on trails for sculptured, stones, mystery objects, plants, and animals while learning about the history and features of the refuge. Sara Ervin Walser, Laurel Leader, "Nature programs at Patuxent Research in full swing [South Laurel/Montpelier]," 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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Learn More about trail

Statistics for trail

Last Updated

4 Dec 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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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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