Share this entry

trench Line breaks: trench
Pronunciation: /trɛn(t)ʃ/

Definition of trench in English:


1A long, narrow ditch: dig a trench around the perimeter of the fire
More example sentences
  • Although the analyses were undertaken in trenches parallel to the detrital-authigenic boundary, no decrease in ages was detected within the overgrowth.
  • It also allows the tracks of the excavator to remain parallel to the trench for efficient repositioning.
  • One such spot is the Labyrinth, where deep trenches are carved into Wright Valley, a relatively ice-free area of the continent.
ditch, channel, trough, excavation, pit, furrow, rut, conduit, cut, drain, waterway, watercourse;
technical fosse
historical sap
1.1A long, narrow ditch dug by troops to provide a place of shelter from enemy fire.
Example sentences
  • I stood in a deep trench with members of various companies waiting for the whistle to jump out and low crawl to the barbed wire.
  • Usually about six feet wide and seven feet deep, the trenches were guarded by barbed wire and machine-gun posts.
  • He thinks to himself that, if it were not for war, he would not be about to go off and kill the fellow just like himself in the trenches on the other side of no man's land, but would be sitting down and having a drink with the man.
1.2 (trenches) A connected system of long, narrow ditches forming an army’s line.
Example sentences
  • Each night more men withdrew in silence until only two hundred and fifty soldiers maintained the front line of trenches where a hundred and thirty thousand had previously defended.
  • The first line of trenches was called front line trenches.
  • Getting decent hot food from the field kitchens to the front line trenches could be impossible when a battle was either imminent or in full flow.
1.3 (the trenches) The battlefields of northern France and Belgium in the First World War: the slaughter in the trenches created a new cynicism
More example sentences
  • The plaque commemorates some 600 Dawson men who went off to fight in the trenches of France and Belgium.
  • Tolkien was said to have based the battle scenes on his own experiences in the trenches of the First World War.
  • After art school he served in the trenches throughout the First World War, an experience which produced one of his major works and left him with a lifelong interest in warfare and soldiers.
2 (also ocean trench) A long, narrow, deep depression in the ocean bed, typically one running parallel to a plate boundary and marking a subduction zone: [in place names]: the Marianas Trench
More example sentences
  • The most conspicuous outboard structure is the accretionary wedge that lies just continentward of the ocean trench, the bathymetric manifestation of the subduction zone.
  • A shelf of coral and limestone jutting into the dark abyss of the ocean trench to the west of the islands, it offers a ringside place at the marine bonanza represented by a strong upwelling current.
  • McCartney's voice can take some getting used to, but the wonders of reverb on songs like ‘Metropolitan’ and ‘Northern Light’ bring to mind images of music bubbling up from the depths of an ocean trench; it's a nice touch.
3A trench coat.
Example sentences
  • He must transform the Burberry trench each season to keep it in the headlines and next summer will be no different.
  • The trenches, hats and flannel suits are a tribute to Humphrey Bogart.
  • Sexier than a parka and cuter than a raincoat, it's a waterproof version of a military-styled coat and it fits long like a trench.


Back to top  
1 [with object] Dig a trench or trenches in (the ground): she trenched the terrace to a depth of 6 feet
More example sentences
  • The waterways phase of the beautification project at Mennonite Heritage Village includes trenching scenic streams to feed into the lake.
  • The perimeter of each plot was trenched to 1 m depth and lined with polyethylene film to prevent lateral movement of soil water.
1.1Turn over the earth of (a field or garden) by digging a succession of adjoining ditches.
Example sentences
  • Here John McPhail, the gardener, was at work trenching in 1828 to create beds for the already burgeoning plant collection.
2 [no object] (trench on/upon) archaic Border closely on; encroach on: this would surely trench very far on the dignity and liberty of citizens
More example sentences
  • Isn't the gold standard for civil liberties questions the ‘strict scrutiny’ test, whereby legislative enactments trenching on constitutional rights need to achieve a compelling state interest by the least intrusive means possible?
  • Well, the president getting involved, he has a right to, but it crosses, it trenches upon the powers of separation.
  • And balanced against this country's self-defense needs, we cannot say that the district court erred in concluding that the electronic surveillance here did not trench upon Ivanov's Fourth Amendment rights.


Late Middle English (in the senses 'track cut through a wood' and 'sever by cutting'): from Old French trenche (noun), trenchier (verb), based on Latin truncare (see truncate).

Words that rhyme with trench

backbench, bench, blench, clench, Dench, drench, entrench, French, frontbench, quench, stench, tench, wench, wrench

Definition of trench 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.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day confidant
Pronunciation: ˈkɒnfɪdant
a person with whom one shares a secret...