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

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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

Selecting a hike can seem overwhelming; our favorite, though, is the Old Rag, a 9.1-mile trek that traverses a maze of boulders to finish on a giant granite slab with incredible views. Laura Ratliff, Condé Nast Traveler, "3 Best Day Trips from Washington, D.C.," 24 July 2018 The bridge has four operational lanes on a good day, not nearly enough for the 2.5 million trucks that traversed it last year. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Morouned Over the Detroit River," 15 July 2018 There's even the bonkers 450-horsepower Raptor edition that can traverse broad swaths of off-road terrain without breaking a sweat. Dan Frio, Edmunds, USA TODAY, "Full-size pickups: Edmunds rounds up the latest news on five 2019 models," 6 July 2018 The central government hopes to build it into a key link in trading networks that traverse central Asia. The Economist, "A tax-evasion scandal ensnares Chinese film-production companies," 7 June 2018 Spanish treasure fleets that traversed the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas and back were a 16th century invention as important as free two-day shipping. Cleve R. Wootson Jr.,, "A robot submarine found the 'Holy Grail of shipwrecks.' It’s worth billions.," 24 May 2018 The hike, hosted by the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, will be in the Santa Fe Valley portion of the Coast to Crest Trail that traverses the Open Space Preserve along the river in Del Dios Gorge. Linda Mcintosh,, "Grant goes to Wellness Warriors... community news," 11 May 2018 Built in 1908 by Greenwood businessman and mayor, Stage Marye, the 5,177-square-foot single-family home was designed to resemble the showboats that traversed the Yazoo and the mighty Mississippi. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "For $65,000, This Once-Grand Mississippi Mansion is Now The Ultimate Fixer Upper," 16 Apr. 2018 Imagine stepping into a time machine, one that could traverse not only billions of years but also countless light years of space, all in search of life in the universe. Lee Billings, Scientific American, "A New Recipe for Hunting Alien Life," 24 Jan. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The idea was to design algorithms that would recognize interesting phenomena encountered in the rover's surroundings during traverses and either notify the science team on Earth asking for instructions or examine those phenomena straightaway. Jacek Krywko, Ars Technica, "To make Curiosity (et al) more curious, NASA and ESA smarten up AI in space," 16 July 2018 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

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 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

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Statistics for traverse

Last Updated

13 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for traverse

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

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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

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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More from Merriam-Webster on traverse

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with traverse

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for traverse

Spanish Central: Translation of traverse

Nglish: Translation of traverse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of traverse for Arabic Speakers

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).


to make faulty or ineffective

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