\ 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

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

Synonyms: Noun

footpath, path, pathway, 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

His 41 touchdowns responsible for was the second-highest single-season total in school history, trailing only Colt McCoy’s 45 in 2008. Nick Moyle, Houston Chronicle, "Preseason All-Big 12 team features four Longhorns," 9 July 2019 When first and second choices were combined, Sanders finished fifth — trailing Biden, Harris, and Warren by double digits, and Buttigieg by five points. Susan Page, USA TODAY, "Poll: Kamala Harris surges in Iowa as Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders suffer after debate," 2 July 2019 The total for all films was down once again, trailing the same weekend last year by 17.4%. Sonaiya Kelley,, "‘Toy Story’ remains on top, ‘Annabelle 3’ and ‘Yesterday’ perform above expectations," 30 June 2019 That means another pitcher must be used in a game the Orioles are likely already trailing; no team has used a new reliever when behind more often and when leading less often. Nathan Ruiz,, "Orioles’ league-worst bullpen plagued by long innings," 28 June 2019 Warren is the highest-polling candidate on Wednesday night, trailing front-runner Joe Biden, the former vice president, and Senator Bernie Sanders, who appear on Thursday. John Buysse, Fortune, "Democratic Debate Candidates Disagree When It Comes to Medicare for All, Private Health Insurance," 27 June 2019 Avoid a major gaffe, while showcasing knowledge of issues Since O'Rourke and Castro are trailing in the polls, there's little room for error on the debate stage. Gromer Jeffers Jr., Dallas News, "3 things Beto O'Rourke and Julián Castro must do to shine during Democratic debate," 26 June 2019 That number was fourth in the nation, trailing only Massachusetts, Michigan and Minnesota. Jess Myers, Twin Cities, "Hockey at Illinois would be a win-win for Illini, Big Ten Conference," 26 June 2019 The governing party’s candidate, former Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, conceded moments after returns showed him trailing well behind Imamoglu, 54 percent to 45 percent. Fox News, "Turkey sees political tension after Erdogan's opposition wins in Istanbul," 24 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The department said the bear, which was put down Friday morning, had continued to approach people on the trail and ransack property, including two tents, in an effort to find food. Globe Staff,, "New England news in brief," 13 July 2019 By October the group was referred to as the Grand Junction Task Group, a reference to the future crossing of the Monon and Midland trace pedestrian trails and local waterways. Kaitlin Lange, Indianapolis Star, "Westfield mayor pushed for Grand Junction Plaza project. His two sons profited from the deal.," 11 July 2019 The search included helicopters, canines, rescuers on horseback and experienced hikers searching trails and ravines. Shaq Davis, azcentral, "Arizona searchers find remains of hiker who dialed for help in February," 10 July 2019 Some trails and visitor areas in Olympic National Forest will be closed during the two-week operation, lasting through July 19. Michelle Lou, CNN, "The government is blindfolding mountain goats to fly them back to their native habitat in Washington," 10 July 2019 Here are the top political headlines from Austin, Washington, the campaign trail and Dallas. Jamie Hancock, Dallas News, "Get ready for an epic Texas 2020 fight, plus three questions that could shape the presidential race," 9 July 2019 Fifty years after the infamous fire on the Cuyahoga River, a growing network of 150 miles of trails and parks, with the Towpath Trail as the spine, is growing in a part of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County long deprived of green space. D'arcy Egan,, "Mighty sturgeon spawning in cleaner Cuyahoga River? Sewer district studies the possibility," 8 July 2019 The neighborhood is also steps from the 177-acre Sugarloaf Open Space that features about 3 miles of hiking trails and wonderful views of Mount Diablo, Shell Ridge, and the Las Trampas Ridge. Monica Lander, The Mercury News, "Sponsored: One of a Kind: Amazing Alamo custom home with Lamorinda vibe," 8 July 2019 Nearly every state is laced with hundreds or more off-road trails and roads in state forests, national forests, national preserves, and other public lands. Outside Online, "5 Fun Things to Do on Sunday," 8 July 2019

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

17 Jul 2019

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 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

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

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).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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