tra·​jec·​to·​ry | \ trə-ˈjek-t(ə-)rē \
plural trajectories

Definition of trajectory

1 : the curve that a body (such as a planet or comet in its orbit or a rocket) describes in space
2 : a path, progression, or line of development resembling a physical trajectory an upward career trajectory

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Did You Know?

Formed with part of the prefix trans-, "across", trajectory means a "hurling across". By calculating the effect of gravity and other forces, the trajectory of an object launched into space at a known speed can be computed precisely. Missiles stand a chance of hitting their target only if their trajectory has been plotted accurately. The word is used most often in physics and engineering, but not always; we can also say, for example, that the trajectory of a whole life may be set in a person's youth, or that a new book traces the long trajectory of the French empire.

Examples of trajectory in a Sentence

the trajectory of the missile

Recent Examples on the Web

Giolito turned around to see the ball’s trajectory, then dropped his head. Bobby Nightengale,, "Yoan Moncada's 3-run triple drops the Cincinnati Reds in 12-inning slugfest," 3 July 2018 Controlling cancer requires thoughtful manipulation to direct cellular evolutionary trajectories, not brute force. James Degregori, STAT, "Using the principles of evolution to treat and prevent cancer," 27 June 2018 Wilmot could be on the same trajectory, and looks set to make the huge leap from League Two to Premier League., "Tottenham Lead Chase for Promising 18-Year-Old Stevenage Defender Ben Wilmot," 15 Jan. 2018 Very few countries are currently on a trajectory to meet their Paris targets. David Roberts, Vox, "The “Trump effect” threatens the future of the Paris climate agreement," 3 Dec. 2018 Kavanaugh credits his mother for his career path Kavanaugh, as an only child, points to his mother, Martha, for his career trajectory. Nicole Darrah, Fox News, "Who is Brett Kavanaugh? 5 things to know about Trump's Supreme Court pick," 28 Aug. 2018 Beautiful Kate!—it’s interesting to think who could be cast now and put on a similar career trajectory to those two now-megastars. Danny Murphy, Marie Claire, "Who Would You Cast in a Remake of Titanic?," 17 Aug. 2018 During the wide-reaching conversation, Feige recounted his entire career trajectory from USC film school to interning with Richard Donner to the first Iron Man movie and wrapping up the second Infinity War, which just recently began postproduction. Mia Galuppo, The Hollywood Reporter, "Marvel's Kevin Feige on Awards Season: "It Doesn’t Mean Everything"," 9 June 2018 Ask about who the artist is, his or her career trajectory, where the artist is exhibiting and how the prices for his or her art have changed in the last few years. New York Times, "How to Make an Art Fair Part of Your Next Vacation," 10 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'trajectory.' 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 trajectory

1696, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for trajectory

New Latin trajectoria, from feminine of trajectorius of passing, from Latin traicere to cause to cross, cross, from trans-, tra- trans- + jacere to throw — more at jet

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Statistics for trajectory

Last Updated

18 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for trajectory

The first known use of trajectory was in 1696

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English Language Learners Definition of trajectory

: the curved path along which something (such as a rocket) moves through the air or through space

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esteemed in general opinion

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