Definition of trail in English:

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Pronunciation: /trāl/


1A mark or a series of signs or objects left behind by the passage of someone or something: a trail of blood on the grass
More example sentences
  • The place where the terrorists executed the men on the first day is still marked by trails of dry blood.
  • Seth grew absolutely still as she stomped off, blood marking her trail in tiny drops.
  • On the doorknob was a bloody hand print, there was also a trail of drag marks lagging behind it.
series, string, chain, succession, sequence;
aftermath, wake
1.1A track or scent used in following someone or hunting an animal: police followed his trail to Atlantic City
More example sentences
  • In a drag hunt, a field master leads a team on horseback, guided by foxhounds on the trail of an animal scent.
  • Alexander does it on foot, following meandering game trails and tracking the animals.
  • They were always scavenging for the latest hint of gossip as if they were ravenous animals on the trail of a wounded deer.
track, spoor, path, scent;
traces, marks, signs, prints, footprints
1.2A part, typically long and thin, stretching behind or hanging down from someone or something: smoke trails trails of ivy
More example sentences
  • As the fires and pumps began to burn off the remaining water within him, a thin trail of smoke exited his nostrils.
  • And he was sure that he was just starting to see the thin trails of smoke from his community's cook-fires.
  • The cigarette dangled from the corner of her red-smudged lips, its burnt and ashy tip sending up thin trails of smoke into the already stuffy air.
wake, contrail, tail, stream
line, column, train, file, procession, string, chain, convoy;
1.3A line of people or things following behind each other: a trail of ants
More example sentences
  • Usually you can sit beside the trails of army ants and watch for guests as the line goes by.
  • Six or seven Russians opened the hatch to the cellar; Oskar focused on a trail of ants on the cellar floor running from the potatoes to the sugar.
2A beaten path through rough country such as a forest or moor.
Example sentences
  • This may be enough for some, but if you wish to capture hidden aspects of the place you will be visiting you might want to get off the beaten trail.
  • There was no road here, only a trail of beaten earth, and his horse's hooves fell with a dull, muffled sound.
  • The cross-country ski trails are just that - with virtually no warming lodges, ski lessons, or rental equipment.
path, pathway, way, footpath, walk, track, course, route
2.1A route planned or followed for a particular purpose: a Democratic candidate on the campaign trail
More example sentences
  • With him will be the Vietnam veterans, the rock stars and the celebrities who have followed the campaign trail for months.
  • Even when unashamedly following the tourist trail, though, it is often better to take the more adventurous options.
  • He followed him on the campaign trail earlier this year also.
2.2 (also ski trail) North American A downhill ski run or cross-country ski route.
Example sentences
  • Getting out onto a well-lit ski trail is one of the most pleasurable additions to cross-country skiing in recent years.
  • It doubles as a cross-country ski trail in the winter.
  • Less far-reaching but no less grand, in 1982 two men with a love of Nordic skiing and a good bottle of wine hit upon the self-evident truth that Vermont needed a state-wide ski trail.
4The rear end of a gun carriage, resting or sliding on the ground when the gun is unlimbered.


1 [with adverbial] Draw or be drawn along the ground or other surface behind someone or something: [with object]: Alex trailed a hand through the clear water [no object]: her robe trailed along the ground
More example sentences
  • Obviously harassed, the young woman walked off, the man still talking in the same vein, trailing along behind her.
  • I sighed as Pitcher waddled along, trailing slightly behind the others sometimes rushing to catch them up.
  • Alternately, it doesn't hurt to find someone smoking tea-leaves and trail along behind them.
drag, sweep, swish, be drawn;
dangle, hang (down), droop
1.1 [no object] (Typically of a plant) grow or hang over the edge of something or along the ground: the roses grew wild, their stems trailing over the banks
More example sentences
  • I sailed on towards Wellington Harbour 70 miles away, saved only by the branches of a willow tree trailing mercifully within arm's reach.
  • Supported plants are also easier to protect from pests than plants trailing on the ground.
  • Vines trailing overhead and pot plants against the whitewashed walls add a Mediterranean feel.
hang, droop, fall, spill, cascade
1.2 [with object] Follow (a person or animal), typically by using marks, signs, or scent left behind.
Example sentences
  • Basically day-time hunters, their prey is trailed by scent and pursued at sight with no violent outburst of speed, but in a steady tireless canter, which finally outruns the quarry.
  • In the end she had no choice but have them follow her because they trailed her.
  • Kate was drawn magnetically to follow, and trailed him through the door into the dark hallway.
follow, pursue, track, shadow, stalk, hunt (down)
informal tail
1.3 [no object] Be losing to an opponent in a game or contest: [with complement]: the Packers were trailing 10-6 at halftime
More example sentences
  • But it shouldn't mask the fact that when he was on a football pitch he was the supremo, the quick-footed star of the game who had tricks and skills to burn and opponents trailing in his slipstream.
  • They have been beatable in every game, trailing in the fourth quarter at home against Golden State and Washington.
  • It came down to the end of the game and we were trailing by one point.
lose, be down, be behind, lag behind
2 [no object] Walk or move slowly or wearily: she trailed behind, whimpering at intervals
More example sentences
  • Donnie promptly looked at Steven, and then began moving up the stairs with Steven trailing wearily behind.
  • He rose to his feet, slowly trailing behind the stern headmaster.
  • Kevin said goodbye to Samantha and walked off trailing behind Martin.
2.1(Of the voice or a speaker) fade gradually before stopping: her voice trailed away
More example sentences
  • He felt the magic start to fade and the voices trailed off.
  • Her voice trailed off as she disappeared around the corner, headed for the children's bedrooms.
  • ‘My God, it could happen to any of us,’ and her voice trailed off.
fade, tail off/away, grow faint, die away, dwindle, taper off, subside, peter out, fizzle out
3 [with object] Advertise (something, especially a film or program) in advance by broadcasting extracts or details.
Example sentences
  • For some strange reason the film was originally trailed as a sort of ‘teen slasher flick’ on US TV.
  • The programme had been trailed on screen for many weeks beforehand, leading many newspaper critics to accuse the broadcaster of ‘hype’.
  • Their six months of filming was distilled into a one hour programme trailed as ‘a damning catalogue of inefficiency, neglect and substandard treatment.’
4 [with object] Apply (slip) through a nozzle or spout to decorate ceramic ware.


Middle English (as a verb): from Old French traillier 'to tow', or Middle Low German treilen 'haul (a boat)', based on Latin tragula 'dragnet', from trahere 'to pull'. Compare with trawl. The noun originally denoted the train of a robe, later generalized to denote something trailing.

  • train from Middle English:

    Before railways were invented in the early 19th century, train followed a different track. Early senses included ‘a trailing part of a robe’ and ‘a retinue’, which gave rise to ‘a line of travelling people or vehicles’, and later ‘a connected series of things’, as in train of thought. To train could mean ‘to cause a plant to grow in a desired shape’, which was the basis of the sense ‘to instruct’. The word is from Latin trahere ‘to pull, draw’, and so is related to word such as trace (Middle English) originally a path someone is drawn along, trail (Middle English) originally in the sense ‘to tow’, tractor (late 18th century) ‘something that pulls', contract (Middle English) ‘draw together’, and extract (Late Middle English) ‘draw out’. Boys in particular have practised the hobby of trainspotting under that name since the late 1950s. Others ridicule this hobby and in Britain in the 1980s trainspotter, like anorak, became a derogatory term for an obsessive follower of any minority interest. Irvine Welsh's 1993 novel Trainspotting gave a high profile to the term. The title refers to an episode in which two heroin addicts go to a disused railway station in Edinburgh and meet an old drunk in a disused railway station who asks them if they are trainspotting. There are also other overtones from the language of drugs—track is an addicts' term for a vein, mainlining [1930s] for injecting a drug intravenously, and train for a drug dealer. Trainers were originally training shoes, soft shoes without spikes or studs worn by athletes or sports players for training rather than the sport itself. The short form began to replace the longer one in the late 1970s.

Words that rhyme with trail

ail, ale, assail, avail, bail, bale, bewail, brail, Braille, chain mail, countervail, curtail, dale, downscale, drail, dwale, entail, exhale, fail, faille, flail, frail, Gael, Gail, gale, Grail, grisaille, hail, hale, impale, jail, kale, mail, male, webmail, nonpareil, outsail, pail, pale, quail, rail, sail, sale, sangrail, scale, shale, snail, stale, swale, tail, tale, they'll, upscale, vail, vale, veil, surveil, wail, wale, whale, Yale

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: trail

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