\ 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

Meneghetti won his last college event at Carthage in Kenosha, Wis., coming from behind on the final day after trailing by eight shots. Mike Hutton, Post-Tribune, "With amateur days ending, Matt Meneghetti eyes one more Northwest Indiana Golf Classic title," 24 June 2018 After trailing 10-8 entering the bottom of the second inning, the Eagles scored five times to take a 13-10 lead. Brent Kennedy, Howard County Times, "Howard County JV spring athletes earn their stripes," 5 June 2018 Washington needs three more wins to become the second team in NHL history to win a Cup after trailing in all four postseason rounds, joining Pittsburgh in 1991. ... CBS News, "Capitals' Braden Holtby makes "save of the year" to even Stanley Cup Final," 31 May 2018 Unlike the other candidates, King has no obvious support base, is trailing in most polls with only single digits and is at a disadvantage financially compared with the other candidates. Gray Rohrer,, "Chris King shakes up Democratic primary in governor race," 22 May 2018 His time trails only York’s Charlie Kern (1:52.56) and Danville’s Quemarii Williams (1:55.39). Rick Armstrong, Aurora Beacon-News, "Boys track notes: Naperville Central's Thomas Shilgalis makes decision to go after 1,600 state title," 17 May 2018 After trailing all of Game 1, Springer and Phelan erupted for four straight points in Game 2 to give Rice a 15-9 lead. Logan Malloy, Daily Southtown, "Local roundup: Dan Littleton, Brother Rice come up big against Lincoln-Way East in boys volleyball," 29 Apr. 2018 Bill Miller, the Legg Mason manager who famously beat the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index for a record 15 years, left his main fund in 2011 after trailing the index for four of the previous five years., "Oracle of Oxford Sees Red as Stock-Picking Powers Misfire," 27 Apr. 2018 The thicket of dark hair that trails behind her is perpetually slicked back in a long braid or ponytail that punctuates her visage, yet makes for a powerful profile. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "At 60, Sade’s Signature Beauty Is More Timeless Than Ever Before," 16 Jan. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Former president Barack Obama seems to be enjoying his newfound free time outside of the White House by dancing at concerts, sprucing up his wardrobe, and hitting the campaign trail in support of rising Democratic candidates. Isabella Gomez, Teen Vogue, "Lin-Manuel Miranda and Barack Obama Perform "One Last Time" Remix from "Hamilton"," 22 Dec. 2018 Still, both parties are ramping up the number of big-name surrogates hitting the campaign trail to boost turnout on Election Day. Joshua Jamerson, WSJ, "Pittsburgh Shooting, Pipe-Bomb Arrest Colors Campaigning for Midterm Election," 28 Oct. 2018 Historical records list all 13 of the ships that were scuttled in 1778, and tracking those ships through trails of documents reveals that many of them were built in either India or North America, with timber from those places. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour found off the coast of Rhode Island," 24 Sep. 2018 The Perseid meteor shower comes around every summer when Earth passes through the trail of dust and debris left in the orbit of the very large Comet Swift-Tuttle, which passes near Earth every 133 years on its journey around the sun. Sarah Lewin,, "The 2018 Perseid Meteor Shower Promises Spectacular Views This Week," 6 Aug. 2018 Start drinking water a couple of hours before hitting the trail. J. Harry Jones,, "Popular trails closed due to heat concerns," 5 July 2018 Before You Leave Before hitting the trail, check online for current conditions. Jonathan Olivier, Outside Online, "How to Escape a Wildfire When You're Hiking," 26 June 2018 There’s something for everyone, from groomed trails at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, to gnarly backcountry experiences in nearby Rogers Pass. Todd Plummer, Vogue, "Hard to Get to, Harder to Leave: Why Revelstoke, B.C. Is Skiing’s Hottest Destination Right Now," 22 Feb. 2019 From there, the video trail petered out and a canvass of the area led nowhere, Cmdr. Erin Ailworth, WSJ, "Inside the Detective Work on the Jussie Smollett Case," 21 Feb. 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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Learn More about trail

Statistics for trail

Last Updated

13 Mar 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

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