Share this entry
derail Line breaks: de¦rail
Pronunciation: /dɪˈreɪl/

Definition of derail in English:


[with object]
1Cause (a train or tram) to leave its tracks accidentally: a train was derailed after it collided with a herd of cattle
More example sentences
  • A strong earthquake shook northwest Japan yesterday, destroying homes, derailing a bullet train and cutting water and power supplies.
  • She said there were two big questions that needed to be answered with urgency: how the car came to be on the track at the time and how the train was derailed in such a catastrophic way.
  • The train was not derailed and remained on the track.
1.1 [no object] (Of a train or tram) accidentally leave the tracks: the trams had a tendency to derail on sharp corners
More example sentences
  • The train car derailed, and a crater was left in the track bed.
  • The train then derailed into the path of an oncoming freight train.
  • Officials say at least three of the train's cars derailed.
1.2 [with object] Obstruct (a process) by diverting it from its intended course: the plot is seen by some as an attempt to derail the negotiations
More example sentences
  • Which leads to another question: Was the robbery intended to derail the peace process?
  • He makes an excellent case that it was created in ‘an obvious attempt to derail the peace process.’
  • Both sides said they are committed to peace talks and analysts say the blast could impede but not derail the process.


Mid 19th century: from French dérailler, from dé- (expressing removal) + rail 'rail'.

Definition of derail in:
Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources