\ 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

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Verb

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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

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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb There is an aging champ, still in the lead but closely trailed by new aspirants. Doug Bandow, National Review, "A New Ranking of Nations Where Christians Are Persecuted Most," 28 Jan. 2020 Source: Bloomberg At 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, the caravan to downtown Caracas began, a motorcade of opposition lawmakers to Venezuela’s National Assembly trailed by a phalanx of reporters and photographers on motorcycles. Patricia Laya,, "One Checkpoint, Then Another, Then Mayhem: Maduro’s Men Set Trap," 15 Jan. 2020 At the time, Caremark and Express Scripts were the second- and third-biggest PBMs, trailing Medco in a competitive market. Matthew Herper, STAT, "The ghosts of JPMs past: How 20 years of deals, scandal, and science have shaped health care," 9 Jan. 2020 Few options for treatment Stroke is the world’s second-leading killer, causing an estimated 5.8 million fatalities annually—trailing only its close cousin, heart disease. Oliver Staley, Quartz Africa, "Zambia has 17 million people, a stroke epidemic, and no neurologists," 30 Dec. 2019 Starring Omari Hardwick, who left Being Mary Jane to star in his own show, the series became the cable network's No. 1 series, and only trailed Game of Thrones for the highest rated series on cable overall. Joi-marie Mckenzie, Essence, "A Definitive List Of The Best Black TV Shows Of The Decade," 24 Dec. 2019 Hooks will dissolve in saltwater, but trailing leaders risk entangling the rostrum and impeding the fish’s feeding. David A. Brown, Field & Stream, "The Fight to Save the Sawfish," 13 Dec. 2019 Dickinson scored 13 of the game’s final 17 points after McDaniel College had rallied to take the lead Wednesday night, trailing by as many as 15 late in the first half, to secure a 61-54 victory in Centennial Conference men’s basketball action. Carroll County Times Staff,, "College Roundup: McDaniel hoops absorbs sweep at Dickinson," 5 Dec. 2019 At least Biden, Sanders, and Warren supporters can take heart: Since November 12, Axios says, Baby Yoda has claimed 2.28 million raw interactions, thereby trailing those three presidential hopefuls. Lila Maclellan, Quartz, "Baby Yoda is inspiring more social media chatter than Democratic candidates," 29 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But, his vote will likely carry over to the campaign trail. Christal Hayes, USA TODAY, "Key Senate Democrat says Trump team made 'persuasive' argument against obstruction article," 28 Jan. 2020 Cue more debate from the campaign trail on the need to impose a trading tax. Bernhard Warner, Fortune, "Big Tech vs. coronavirus: can Apple, Amazon and Microsoft restore calm to the global markets?," 28 Jan. 2020 Louisville Courier Journal FRANKFORT — As promised on the campaign trail, Gov. Andy Beshear's budget proposal takes the first stab at reversing years of cuts to public education in Kentucky. Olivia Krauth, The Courier-Journal, "Gov. Andy Beshear makes good on promises to educators in 'education-first' budget," 28 Jan. 2020 This post is part of Campaign Update, our live coverage from the 2020 campaign trail. Emma Kinery,, "Bernie Sanders Slams Joe Biden on Social Security, Again," 27 Jan. 2020 Meanwhile, calling witnesses would likely keep Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and possibly even Biden himself away from the campaign trail ahead of the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. Matthew Walther, TheWeek, "John Bolton's quest for vengeance and book sales," 27 Jan. 2020 People who tap cans of soda hoping to release the carbonation are trying to do the same thing, and when a glass of beer has trails of bubbles up its side, this indicates tiny impurities of dirt or other particulate acting as catalysts. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "How Holy Clouds Cause Snowfall," 27 Jan. 2020 Surrogates can also bring a dash of star power to the campaign trail to keep voters engaged. Time, "Jonathan Van Ness, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Among Surrogates Standing in for 2020 Hopefuls During Impeachment Trial," 21 Jan. 2020 Scientists have warned that the trail of human visitors could hurt the islands’ delicate natural habitats. Popular Science, "Even with international protections, the Galápagos Islands are becoming more vulnerable to humans," 21 Jan. 2020

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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Time Traveler for trail

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for trail

Last Updated

13 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Trail.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for trail


How to pronounce trail (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for trail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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