trail

1 of 2

verb

trailed; trailing; trails

intransitive verb

1
a
: 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
2
a
: 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
4
a
: 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

1
a
: to draw or drag loosely along a surface : allow to sweep the ground
b
: haul, tow
2
a
: 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
3
a
: 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)

trail

2 of 2

noun

1
a(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
2
a
: 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
trailless adjective
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

Example Sentences

Verb 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. Noun Stay on the trail if we get separated. The car left a trail of smoke as it sped off. following the trail to success See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
After allowing a goal at 9:37 of the third to fall behind 4-1, the Stars became the first team in NHL history to trail by at least three goals that late and win in regulation, according to STATS. Schuyler Dixon, Chicago Tribune, 24 Nov. 2022 Utah Tech shot 50% from the field over the first eight minutes of the second half to trail 67-41. Bruce Pascoe, The Arizona Republic, 18 Nov. 2022 Moreno made up some ground to Hernandez throughout the night but continued to trail the newcomer by a wide margin two hours after polls closed. Debbie Truongstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 9 Nov. 2022 The Cardinals blew a 10-point lead in the second half to trail by six, and the final minutes of the game were competitive against a Chaminade team that on Tuesday lost 101-57 at Ohio State. Brett Dawson, The Courier-Journal, 4 Nov. 2022 The Blazers lost 81-78 after coming back from being down 41-34 at halftime to trail just 70-69 with under three minutes remaining in the game. oregonlive, 8 July 2022 These everyday boots can go box to trail with no breaking in required and offer extra support while doing so. Lauren Breedlove, Travel + Leisure, 6 May 2022 The Timberwolves took a 15-13 lead at the 5:50 mark of the first quarter -- and didn’t trail the rest of the night. Chris Fedor, cleveland, 13 Nov. 2022 Dimond went on a 4-0 run and wouldn’t trail again on their way to winning 25-21 and claiming the match. Josh Reed, Anchorage Daily News, 5 Nov. 2022
Noun
Both Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Walker have often mentioned their faith while on the campaign trail. Shelia Poole, ajc, 28 Nov. 2022 The election is happening a month after the end of the 20th congress of China’s Communist Party, where President Xi Jinping secured an unprecedented third term in office – a point Tsai has repeatedly made on the campaign trail. Reuters, CNN, 25 Nov. 2022 The competition quickly gained national attention, and Gaines joined several Republican candidates on the campaign trail this cycle. Aubrie Spady, Fox News, 23 Nov. 2022 On the campaign trail, Blakespear emphasized her record as mayor and her efforts to support the environment, such as adopting a building ordinance in Encinitas that limits use of natural gas in new construction. San Diego Union-Tribune, 22 Nov. 2022 The video pictured a montage of Lake on the campaign trail as the song played in the background for about two minutes. Robert Anglen, USA TODAY, 20 Nov. 2022 The video pictured a montage of Lake on the campaign trail as the song played in the background for about two minutes. Robert Anglen, The Arizona Republic, 18 Nov. 2022 Republican candidates pledged on the campaign trail to cut taxes and tighten border security. Will Weissert, Sara Burnett And Jill Colvin, Anchorage Daily News, 17 Nov. 2022 Republican candidates pledged on the campaign trail to cut taxes and tighten border security. Will Weissert, Chicago Tribune, 16 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

Verb

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

First Known Use

Verb

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

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

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

Dictionary Entries Near trail

Cite this Entry

“Trail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trail. Accessed 8 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

trail

1 of 2 verb
1
: to drag or draw along behind
2
: to lag behind
3
a
: to follow upon the scent or trace of : track
dogs trailing a fox
b
: to follow in the tracks of : pursue
photographers trailed the actor
4
: to hang down or rest on or creep over the ground
trailing vines
a trailing skirt
5
: to form a trail
smoke trailed from the chimney
6
: to become less and less : dwindle
the voice trailed off

trail

2 of 2 noun
1
: something that trails or is trailed
2
: a trace or mark left by something that has passed or been drawn along
3
a
: a track made by passage : a beaten path
b
: a path marked to show a route (as through a forest)
hiking trails
c
: an established course or routine
hit the campaign trail

More from Merriam-Webster on trail

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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