tra·​jec·​to·​ry | \ trə-ˈjek-t(ə-)rē How to pronounce trajectory (audio) \
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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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 Thrasio’s trajectory—and the stratospheric rise of many startups—benefited from years of low interest rates and a decline in the number of public-company stocks, which helped drive investors into venture capital. Heather Somerville, WSJ, 16 May 2022 Additional regulations could diminish the popularity of cryptocurrency as an asset class and negatively impact Coinbase’s growth trajectory. David Trainer, Forbes, 16 May 2022 But this verdict on the band’s trajectory has never dented my attachment to it. Peter C. Baker, The New Yorker, 15 May 2022 Instead, Dantes said, bitcoin's price trajectory looks more like those of volatile technology stocks for companies that often operate at losses despite high growth. Rob Wile, NBC News, 14 May 2022 In an unusual trajectory, one of the Bay Area’s most beloved craft breweries has severed a partnership with a global beer corporation and instead taken on a smaller-scale, local partner. Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, 13 May 2022 Put simply, Musk must rapidly improve Twitter's operations to achieve growth revenues that's much faster than the rise in expenses, the opposite of today's trajectory. Shawn Tully, Fortune, 13 May 2022 Of course, this is the natural, the most obvious trajectory for the protagonist—any reader of Happening will know that its author eventually became one of France’s most famous writers. Lidija Haas, The New Republic, 12 May 2022 Our show is completely fictional, but the trajectory of our story is inspired by the realities of what that was like — not just that night, but the aftermath and the way that the community of Orlando rebuilt in the wake of that tragedy. Lesley Goldberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 11 May 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for trajectory

Time Traveler

The first known use of trajectory was in 1696

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Last Updated

19 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Trajectory.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2022.

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