tra·​verse | \ trə-ˈvərs How to pronounce traverse (audio) also tra-ˈvərs or ˈtra-(ˌ)vərs How to pronounce traverse (audio) \
traversed; traversing

Definition of traverse

 (Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : to go or travel across or over
b : to move or pass along or through light rays traversing a crystal
2 : to make a study of : examine
3 : to lie or extend across : cross the bridge traverses a brook
4a : to move to and fro over or along
b : to ascend, descend, or cross (a slope or gap) at an angle
c : to move (a gun) to right or left on a pivot
5a : to go against or act in opposition to : oppose, thwart
b : to deny (something, such as an allegation of fact or an indictment) formally at law
6 : to make or carry out a survey of by using traverses

intransitive verb

1 : to move back and forth or from side to side
2 : to move or turn laterally : swivel
3a : to climb at an angle or in a zigzag course
b : to ski across rather than straight down a hill
4 : to make a survey by using traverses


tra·​verse | \ ˈtra-vərs How to pronounce traverse (audio) also -ˌvərs, especially for senses 6 and 8 also trə-ˈvərs How to pronounce traverse (audio) or tra-ˈvərs \

Definition of traverse (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : something that crosses or lies across
3 : a formal denial of a matter of fact alleged by the opposing party in a legal pleading
4a : a compartment or recess formed by a partition, curtain, or screen
b : a gallery or loft providing access from one side to another in a large building
5 : a route or way across or over: such as
a : a zigzag course of a sailing ship with contrary winds
b : a curving or zigzag way up a steep grade
c : the course followed in traversing
6 : the act or an instance of traversing : crossing
7 : a protective projecting wall or bank of earth in a trench
8a : a lateral movement (as of the saddle of a lathe carriage) also : a device for imparting such movement
b : the lateral movement of a gun about a pivot or on a carriage to change direction of fire
9 : a line surveyed across a plot of ground


tra·​verse | \ ˈtra-(ˌ)vərs How to pronounce traverse (audio) , trə-ˈvərs How to pronounce traverse (audio) , tra-ˈvərs \

Definition of traverse (Entry 3 of 3)

: lying across : transverse

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Other Words from traverse


traversable \ trə-​ˈvər-​sə-​bəl How to pronounce traverse (audio) also  tra-​ˈvər-​ or  ˈtra-​(ˌ)vər-​ \ adjective
traverser noun

Examples of traverse in a Sentence

Verb The candidates traversed the state throughout the campaign. The river traverses the county.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Zhao has directed a film with a story that's universally intriguing, both in terms of plot (seeing Frances McDormand traverse the country in a van to hash out her emotional anxieties is stimulating in itself) and for the spectacle of its oddity. David Canfield,, "See EW's final Oscar predictions in all 23 categories, from Viola Davis to Nomadland," 23 Apr. 2021 Beginning with a myth about the creation of Rio Carnival, a man falls for a dancer obsessed with tuberose then proceeds to traverse the globe in search of the rarest flowers; a citywide celebration then blooms out of their courtship. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Spring’s Best Fragrances Are Big on Personality," 8 Apr. 2021 Able to traverse long football fields with a single throw. Alex Vejar, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah State getting a first taste of Blake Anderson’s fast-paced offense this spring, and the early reviews are encouraging," 2 Apr. 2021 Customs and Border Protection encountered roughly 100,000 migrants attempting to traverse the southern border in February, and agents noted a sharp uptick in drug seizures as the Biden administration faces the prospect of an immigration crisis. Jake Dima, Washington Examiner, "CBP encountered over 100,000 migrants attempting to cross the border as drug seizures jumped by 50% in February," 10 Mar. 2021 Normally, the two legs are exactly the same length, and so the light takes exactly the same amount of time to traverse each. Clara Moskowitz, Scientific American, "Gravitational Waves Discovered from Colliding Black Holes," 11 Feb. 2016 Tens of thousands of trucks traverse it daily, carrying goods from Michigan to Florida and states in between. Ben Gittleson, ABC News, "McConnell's home state bridge symbol of infrastructure standoff with Biden," 8 Apr. 2021 Two-plank boardwalk trails provide a safe way to traverse the bog, looping through the 36.2-acre property., "5 boardwalks to elevate the hiking experience," 2 Apr. 2021 Days can pass by simply watching light traverse the sandstone face of a mesa; the shape-shifting of clouds casting shadows on the land., "Terry Tempest Williams: We have to bridge our divides. My uncle reminded me how to begin," 7 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The flight plan called for a climb to an altitude of 16 feet and a 436-foot out-and-back traverse, the farthest to date. William Harwood, CBS News, "Ingenuity Mars helicopter fails to take off on fourth test flight," 29 Apr. 2021 Chats and calls are automatically routed via a global network of data centers and traverse cell towers and mobile networks built by carriers using hardware of various designs. Will Cathcart, Wired, "Encryption Has Never Been More Essential—or Threatened," 5 Apr. 2021 That’s key on a rocky planet like Mars because much of its surface is too rough for a rover to traverse. Jamie Carter, Forbes, "Mars Helicopter: How To Follow Online This Week As NASA’s $80 Million ‘Ingenuity’ Drone Attempts Unique Flight," 5 Apr. 2021 Beginning at Last Dollar Pass, these four mountain dwellings shelter hikers on a 30-mile traverse between the resort towns of Telluride and Ouray. Andrew Nelson, WSJ, "Your Guide to Living Well in the Great Outdoors," 27 Mar. 2021 The company's sunrise, sunset, and whale-watching trips depart from Wailea Beach and traverse along the island's southern coast. Spend an entire day driving the Road to Hāna. Evie Carrick, Travel + Leisure, "How to Plan the Perfect Honeymoon in Maui," 20 Mar. 2021 Similarly, this area converts into a sleeping nook designed for children featuring a traverse bed that measures 47 by 69 inches. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, "This Plush 24-Foot Camper Brings Luxury Living to Your Cross-Country Road Trip," 17 Mar. 2021 Those who make the traverse can reap the rewards while looking out for black bears, wild hogs, alligators and abundant avian residents in the wilderness area. Patrick Connolly,, "Florida Fresh Air: Black Bear Wilderness Area supplies scenic, strenuous hike," 26 Feb. 2021 About half of this traverse could be completed in Perseverance’s prime mission (one Mars year, or two Earth years). Mike Wehner, BGR, "This is where NASA wants to send its new rover," 24 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Common backpacking circumstances that warrant a dedicated ice pick include the need to clear and traverse snowy trails, as well as preparation of backcountry campsites and removal of ice from hard surfaces including wood, rock, and asphalt. Popular Science, "Best ice pick: A versatile winter tool for camping and more," 25 Feb. 2021 The Fairhope parade will include lining up floats parked along Section Street and have vehicles traverse along the parade route. al, "Mobile debate: Who pulls the plug on Mardi Gras?," 27 Nov. 2020

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 5a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for traverse


Middle English, from Anglo-French traverser, from Late Latin transversare, from Latin transversus


Middle English travers, from Anglo-French travers (as in a travers, de travers across), from Latin transversum (as in in transversum set crosswise), neuter of transversus lying across; senses 5–9 in part from traverse entry 1 — more at transverse entry 1

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Time Traveler for traverse

Time Traveler

The first known use of traverse was in the 14th century

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Statistics for traverse

Last Updated

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Traverse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for traverse



English Language Learners Definition of traverse

somewhat formal : to move across (an area)


tra·​verse | \ trə-ˈvərs How to pronounce traverse (audio) \
traversed; traversing

Kids Definition of traverse

: to pass through, across, or over


tra·​verse | \ ˈtra-ˌvərs, trə-ˈvərs How to pronounce traverse (audio) \

Legal Definition of traverse

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a denial of a matter of fact alleged in the opposing party's pleadings also : a pleading in which such a denial is made


transitive verb
tra·​verse | \ trə-ˈvərs, ˈtra-ˌvərs How to pronounce traverse (audio) \

Legal Definition of traverse (Entry 2 of 2)

: to deny (as an allegation of fact or an indictment) in a legal proceeding

History and Etymology for traverse

Transitive verb

Anglo-French traverser, literally, to lay across, bar, impede, from Old French, from Late Latin transversare to cross, from Latin transversus lying across

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