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 traversable (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 But there's now enough flexibility and ride compliance to traverse smoother pavement without smacking the bump stops. Mike Sutton, Car and Driver, "Tested: 2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA45 Grows Up, Gets Better," 4 Sep. 2020 As Ellie Mae’s numbers show, the convergence of the lockdown and bargain home loans is luring customers to traverse far more of the passage online. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "First he took energy trading and the NYSE electronic. Now Jeff Sprecher of ICE shares his plans to digitize your mortgage," 2 Sep. 2020 Trying to traverse the Vikings’ current course while a pandemic jolts the NFL’s economic engine is trickier still. Ben Goessling, Star Tribune, "Vikings chart an unusual course in an uncertain financial landscape," 31 Aug. 2020 Rita, which followed a similar path to the one Laura is expected to traverse, increased by a whopping 69 mph in its first 24 hours in the Gulf of Mexico. Brandon Miller, CNN, "'Rapid intensification' is likely as Hurricane Laura tracks toward Gulf Coast," 25 Aug. 2020 The spacecraft will fly for about seven months to traverse the 314 million miles between Earth and Mars, as Smithsonian magazine reports. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "NASA Releases Rainbow-Colored Images of Martian Moon Phobos," 15 June 2020 McCloy could see that flames were already overwhelming the dirt roads her husband would need to traverse to leave the High Sierra. Lizzie Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, "The burning forest lit the way," 12 Sep. 2020 From Lake Superior, Mckenrick will traverse the northern U.S. en route back to Bend, Oregon. Meena Thiruvengadam, Travel + Leisure, "An Oregon Man Is Walking Thousands of Miles Across the U.S. to Develop a 12,000-mile Cross-country Hiking Trail," 2 Sep. 2020 For year-round access — and an opportunity to traverse the Laurentian Divide — head 30 miles east to the Laurentian Divide Recreation Area, just north of Virginia. Kerri Westenberg, Star Tribune, "Near Hibbing, Minn., a geological force of nature," 28 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The researchers also tested a mouse pancreatic cancer cell’s ability to traverse mazes, but the cancer cell moves much slower than an amoeba. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "A Mini Version of Britain’s Royal Hedge Maze Is No Match for Amoebas," 1 Sep. 2020 The traverse ended up going down a small embankment. Teri Figueroa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "One driver killed, one driver hurt in predawn two-car crash in Otay Mesa," 21 Aug. 2020 While the mudflats are extremely dangerous to traverse, stepping onto the mud is not an automatic death sentence. David Reamer, Anchorage Daily News, "The true history of Cook Inlet’s deadly mudflats," 13 July 2020 Each summer massive plumes of dust traverse the atmosphere above the tropical Atlantic Ocean, traveling 5,000 miles from the Sahara desert in northern Africa all the way to the southern United States. Jeff Berardelli, CBS News, "Massive Sahara desert dust plume drifting toward the United States," 23 June 2020 Obstacles notwithstanding, the run to Buck Island Lake can be rewarding for its vistas and overlooks that make this most difficult traverse a showcase of mountain preservation and wonder. Bob Semerau, Outdoor Life, "Take an Overland Adventure to These Five Fishing Destinations," 4 June 2020 The Exit name comes from the pioneering 1968 ski traverse across the Harding Icefield by an expedition party that included Alaska homesteader Yule Kilcher, the grandfather of singer Jewel Kilcher. Yereth Rosen, Anchorage Daily News, "Retreating Exit Glacier has become an icon of climate change," 4 Aug. 2017 The second line, after a swift traverse across the pistes, went down a tall mogul field under a crag, followed by more difficult passages through trees. Simon Akam, Outside Online, "You Won’t Pass Chamonix’s Mountain Guiding Test," 27 Nov. 2019 The test involved various traverses on steep ice that gauged candidates’ skills with crampons and ice axes. Simon Akam, Outside Online, "You Won’t Pass Chamonix’s Mountain Guiding Test," 27 Nov. 2019

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

29 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Traverse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for traverse


How to pronounce traverse (audio) How to pronounce traverse (audio)

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
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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