trip wire


: a low-placed concealed wire used especially in warfare to trip an enemy or trespasser and usually to trigger an alarm or explosive device when moved
: something (such as a small military force) intended to function like a trip wire (as to set a larger military force in motion)

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Two of Derimov’s men delicately removed and defused a hand grenade that had been attached to a tree with a barely visible trip wire intended to set it off. Marc Santora,, 20 Nov. 2022 Mike Colbach returned on Saturday to get a better look and found the trip wire attached to a beer bottle in a tree. Will Egensteiner, Outside Online, 21 Oct. 2014 Eastern flank countries for years have been pushing for more U.S. forces on their soil as a deterrent to Moscow, seeing U.S. troops as a trip wire for the Kremlin. Washington Post, 12 Feb. 2022 In the late nineteen-eighties, Mexico used this technology to set up a seismic trip wire between its capital city and the coast, in order to catch offshore tremors. The New Yorker, 10 Aug. 2021 Alone–style security system, and when Big Man steps on a trip wire, a small windup toy rolls across the floor, posing absolutely no threat to anyone, baby or adult. Oliver Sava, Vulture, 4 June 2021 The yearslong push to legalize recreational marijuana in New York, a proposal that often found its momentum stalled by some political trip wire, received an unexpected boost from Mr. Cuomo’s recent political scandals. New York Times, 25 Mar. 2021 As the family makes their way through a deadly silent landscape, Evelyn accidentally sets off a trip wire, rattling a bunch of tin cans as an alarm. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 1 Jan. 2020 Some of those who have hit the trip wire are recent college graduates, installed in jobs usually reserved for officials with decades of experience. Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, 14 May 2018 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'trip wire.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1915, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of trip wire was in 1915

Dictionary Entries Near trip wire

Cite this Entry

“Trip wire.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Mar. 2023.

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