Definition of trail in English:


Line breaks: trail
Pronunciation: /treɪl


  • 2A long thin part or line stretching behind or hanging down from something: smoke trails we drove down in a trail of tourist cars
    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, tail, stream, slipstreamline, queue, row, train, file, rank, column, procession, string, chain, array, group, following, entourage, convoy
  • 3A beaten path through the countryside: country parks with nature trails easy waymarked trails for the casual walker
    More 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, beaten path, pathway, way, footpath, track, course, road, route
  • 3.1A route followed for a particular purpose: the hotel is well off the tourist 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.
  • 3.2 (also ski trail) North American A downhill ski run or cross-country ski route: this steep trail is as firm as off-piste spring snow
    More 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.
  • 4A trailer for a film or broadcast: a recent television trail for ‘The Bill’
    More example sentences
    • It will feature on-air trails on television and radio and, for the first time, an off-air poster campaign.
    • Strikingly, the television trails feature no voices and the thoughts of individuals reacting to scenes around them are represented by words on screen.
    • The campaign will also appear - in Arabic and English - on major and specialised online sites, and on Arabic radio trails across the Arab world.
  • 5The rear end of a gun carriage, resting or sliding on the ground when the gun is unlimbered.


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  • 1 [with adverbial] Draw or be drawn along 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, be drawn, draw, stream, dangle, hang (down), tow, droop
    archaic depend
  • 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.
  • 4 [no object] Be losing to an opponent in a game or contest: [with complement]: the defending champions were trailing 10—5 at half-time
    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, fall behind, drop behind
  • 5 [with object] Give advance publicity to (a film, broadcast, or proposal): the bank’s plans have been extensively trailed
    More 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.’
    advertise, publicize, announce, proclaim; preview, show excerpts of, call attention to
    informal hype
  • 6 [with object] Apply (slip) through a nozzle or spout to decorate ceramic ware.


at the trail

Military With a rifle hanging balanced in one hand and (in Britain) parallel to the ground.

trail arms

Military Let a rifle hang balanced in one hand and (in Britain) parallel to the ground.
More example sentences
  • When the order is given to trail arms, from the secure, it is done on that side, and with that hand which holds the rifle.
  • Whenever entering into the tunnel recruit units had to trail arms and sing ‘Anchor’s Aweigh’.
  • At twenty yards' distance the soldiers will be ordered to trail arms, advance with shouts, fire at five paces' distance, and charge bayonets.

trail one's coat

Deliberately provoke a quarrel or fight.
More example sentences
  • She also trailed her coat in relation to an entirely new point in respect of which she wished to reserve her position, but which she did not argue before me.
  • We asked teachers all over the UK for their views and trailed our coats at innumerable meetings.
  • Not only has he chanced his hand, but he has sometimes trailed his coat.


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.

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