tra·verse | \trə-ˈvərs also tra-ˈvərs or ˈtra-(ˌ)vərs \
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 also -ˌvərs, especially for senses 6 and 8 also trə-ˈvərs 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, trə-ˈvərs, tra-ˈvərs\

Definition of traverse (Entry 3 of 3)

: lying across : transverse

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from traverse


traversable \trə-ˈvər-sə-bəl also tra-ˈvər- or ˈtra-(ˌ)vər- \ adjective
traverser noun

Examples of traverse in a Sentence


The candidates traversed the state throughout the campaign. The river traverses the county.

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Image Donald Ritchie, one of the world’s top ultrarunners, who set more than a dozen records traversing distances better suited to an automobile than a human being, died on June 16 at his home in Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland. Daniel E. Slotnik, New York Times, "Donald Ritchie, Record-Breaking Ultrarunner, Is Dead at 73," 1 July 2018 And the new bridge will come with ramps to connect directly to expressways in both cities, unlike the Ambassador, which still requires truckers to traverse surface streets in Windsor to get to a freeway. John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press, "Canadians see summer groundbreaking for long-sought Gordie Howe International Bridge," 30 Jan. 2018 With workers in their 40s, 50s and even 60s, an electric bike is seen as a smart investment as businesses expand their delivery zones, requiring delivery workers to traverse greater distances in less time, advocates say. Chris Fuchs /, NBC News, "Electric bikes can help immigrant workers. But in New York, they're banned.," 16 Jan. 2018 In the last two years, the Margate beach patrol began offering rides to those who cannot traverse the dunes. Avalon R. Zoppo,, "Getting her wheelchair on the beach was a struggle. Brigantine just made it easier," 10 July 2018 Martin said seeing the sand and siltation build-up firsthand has had a profound effect on him and others who have traversed the San Jacinto by boat and helicopter. Melanie Feuk, Houston Chronicle, "Campaign invites officials to see Lake Houston's continued post-Harvey needs," 7 Mar. 2018 In addition to uncovering the Maine sloop, modern storms have been a boon to historians, scientists and archaeologists who traverse the depths to solve confounding mysteries. Alex Horton, Washington Post, "Nor’easter winds reveal a surprising beach discovery: The remains of a Revolutionary War-era ship," 5 Mar. 2018 For one weekend in May, the couple traversed the state, stopping in Wilmington, Braidwood, Utica, Auburn, Alton/Grafton, Springfield and Starved Rock country. Darcel Rockett,, "Illinois tourism sets up couple on 390-mile blind-date road trip," 6 July 2018 Today, no gibbons live anywhere near the Yangtze River gorges Li traversed, and the apes that remain elsewhere in China have fur patterns different from those often depicted in classical Chinese paintings. Gretchen Vogel, Science | AAAS, "Vanished ape found in ancient Chinese tomb, giving clues to its disappearance," 21 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Highway 20 traverses Clear Lake, Colusa, Yuba City and Nevada City. Julia Sclafani, sacbee, "'We are at a loss': CHP is unsure why this span of highway in Grass Valley is so deadly," 6 July 2018 Shiffrin was the 19th skier to go down the hill and ended the run 1.98 seconds behind Vonn after looking shaky coming out of the first traverse. Jason Duaine Hahn,, "Mikaela Shiffrin Wins Silver in Olympic Face-Off With Lindsey Vonn at Women's Alpine Combined Race," 22 Feb. 2018 Kilmer last week helped cut the ribbon on Amtrak's new Freighthouse Square station, within his district, which the new $181 million bypass traverses. Josh Farley, USA TODAY, "Washington officials remain committed to bypass, site of deadly train derailment," 19 Dec. 2017 Analyses by the team, including carbon dating, suggest that the excreta dug up at the Traversette site could date to well within the ballpark of the Punic forces’ traverse. Smithsonian, "How (and Where) Did Hannibal Cross the Alps?," 29 July 2017 The route also crosses seven bridges—including a three-wire bridge and a Tyrolean traverse (basically a horizontal zipline in which climbers clip onto a rope or wire and pull themselves across). Jennifer Billock, Smithsonian, "Climb a 2,500-Rung Ladder Up New Zealand’s Towering Twin Falls," 19 Oct. 2017 The blue swath on my westernmost map — the Bering Strait, endpoint of my traverse — stretches south to encompass my former hometown of Nome. Michael Engelhard, Alaska Dispatch News, "Traversing the Brooks Range, step by revealing step," 9 Sep. 2017 Analyses by the team, including carbon dating, suggest that the excreta dug up at the Traversette site could date to well within the ballpark of the Punic forces’ traverse. Smithsonian, "How (and Where) Did Hannibal Cross the Alps?," 29 July 2017 Analyses by the team, including carbon dating, suggest that the excreta dug up at the Traversette site could date to well within the ballpark of the Punic forces’ traverse. Smithsonian, "How (and Where) Did Hannibal Cross the Alps?," 29 July 2017

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.

See More

First Known Use of traverse


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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


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

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about traverse

Statistics for traverse

Last Updated

18 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for traverse

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for traverse



English Language Learners Definition of traverse

: to move across (an area)


tra·verse | \trə-ˈvərs \
traversed; traversing

Kids Definition of traverse

: to pass through, across, or over


tra·verse | \ˈtra-ˌvərs, trə-ˈvərs \

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 \

Legal Definition of traverse (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on traverse

What made you want to look up traverse? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


lying above or upon

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!