from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To allow to drag or stream behind, as along the ground.
  • intransitive verb To drag (the body, for example) wearily or heavily.
  • intransitive verb To follow the traces or scent of, as in hunting; track.
  • intransitive verb To follow the course taken by; pursue.
  • intransitive verb To follow behind.
  • intransitive verb To lag behind (an opponent).
  • intransitive verb To drag or be dragged along, brushing the ground.
  • intransitive verb To extend, grow, or droop loosely over a surface.
  • intransitive verb To drift in a thin stream.
  • intransitive verb To become gradually fainter; dwindle.
  • intransitive verb To walk or proceed with dragging steps; trudge.
  • intransitive verb To be behind in competition; lag.
  • noun A marked or beaten path, as through woods or wilderness.
  • noun An overland route.
  • noun A marked course through one or more bodies of water, as for recreational boaters or divers.
  • noun A mark, trace, course, or path left by a moving body.
  • noun The scent of a person or animal.
  • noun Something that is drawn along or follows behind; a train.
  • noun A succession of things that come afterward or are left behind.
  • noun Something that hangs loose and long.
  • noun The part of a gun carriage that rests or slides on the ground.
  • noun The act of trailing.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To fasten (as wagons) one behind the other so as to form a train.
  • In casino, to play a card which neither builds nor takes in anything.
  • noun A local term in southern England for confused deposits of glacial debris resting upon soft sands, clays, etc., which latter have been crumpled and squeezed by ice-pressure.
  • noun unsorted glacial or related deposits containing human implements ana resting upon a preglacial surface in southern England called the ‘Palæolithic floor.’ See trail, 6.
  • noun A latticed frame; a trellis for running or climbing plants.
  • noun A running ornament or enrichment of leaves, flowers, tendrils, etc., as in the hollow moldings of Gothic architecture; a wreath.
  • To overspread with a tracery or intertwining pattern or ornament.
  • To draw along behind.
  • To drag or draw loosely along the ground or other surface, as the train of a woman's dress.
  • Milit., to carry in an oblique forward position, with the breech or the butt near the ground, the piece or the pike being held by the right hand near the middle: as, to trail arms.
  • To beat down or make a beaten path through by frequent treading; make a beaten path through: as, to trail grass.
  • To hunt or follow up by the track or scent; follow in the trail or tracks of; track.
  • To draw out; lead on, especially in a mischievous or ill-natured way; play upon the ignorance or fears of.
  • To hang down or drag loosely behind, as the train of a woman's dress.
  • To grow loosely and without self-support to a considerable length along the ground or over bushes, rocks, or other low objects; recline or droop and as it were drag upon the ground, as a branch. See trailing plant, below.
  • To move with a slow sweeping motion.
  • To loiter or creep along as a straggler or a person who is nearly tired out; walk or make one's way idly or lazily.
  • To reach or extend in a straggling way.
  • To fish with or from a trailer: as, to trail for mackerel.
  • noun Entrails; the intestines of game when cooked and sent to table, as those of snipe and woodcock, and certain fish; also, the intestines of sheep.
  • noun A part dragged behind; something drawn after; a train; a rear appendage.
  • noun A trailing part or organ; a train: as, the trail of the peacock: often used figuratively.
  • noun In artillery, the lower end of the carriage; in field-artillery, that part of the carriage which reats on the ground when unlimbered. See cut under gun-carriage.
  • noun Any long appendage, real or apparent, as a line or streak marking the path just passed over by a moving body: as, the trail of a meteor; a trail of smoke.
  • noun In astronomy, the elongated image of a star produced upon a photographic plate, which is not made to follow the star's diurnal motion. The intensity of this trail is used as a measure of the star's brightness.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English trailen, probably from Old French trailler, to hunt without a foreknown course, from Vulgar Latin *trāgulāre, to make a deer double back and forth, perhaps alteration (influenced by Latin trāgula, dragnet) of Latin trahere, to pull, draw.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Latin trahere, to drag along


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word trail.


  • There are two ways of employing it: one when it appears on back and front of the trunk, so that the trail can be run both ways; the other when it appears on but one side of each tree, making a _blind trail_, which can be run one way only, the blind trail is often used by trappers and prospectors, who do not wish anyone to follow their back track.

    Scouting For Girls, Official Handbook of the Girl Scouts Girl Scouts of the United States of America 1918

  • "Let my brothers make sure that they do not lose the trail; they must look at the ground often: when they do not see the path they must stop and await the rising of the sun; they can not reach the cabin too soon, but they can never reach it by going wrong; _keep to the trail_!"

    The Hunters of the Ozark Edward Sylvester Ellis 1878

  • But, Dad He let the word trail as he gestured to us.

    The Soldiers of Halla D. J. MacHale 2009

  • But, Dad He let the word trail as he gestured to us.

    The Soldiers of Halla D. J. MacHale 2009

  • But, Dad He let the word trail as he gestured to us.

    The Soldiers of Halla D. J. MacHale 2009

  • And this season they're on the title trail once more, tucked in on Chesterfield's shoulder at the top of League Two.

    The Guardian World News John Ashdown 2011

  • The primary surface finish of the trail is a stone dust surface.

    2010 June « Beachwood Historical Alliance 2010

  • The primary surface finish of the trail is a stone dust surface.

    2010 June 03 « Beachwood Historical Alliance 2010

  • The following morning we rose bright and early and after checking and splitting our gear and food equally we drove out of Attapeu and headed to the village of Pa-am on part of the Ho Chi Minh trail, a reminder of this trail is the Russian old surface to air missile which still stands in its place.

    SciFi, Fantasy & Horror Collectibles - Part 1244 2009

  • The primary surface finish of the trail is a stone dust surface.

    Rail Trail Celebration on Tap for Saturday « Beachwood Historical Alliance 2010


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • In an archaic military sense, the hinder end of the stock of a gun-carriage, which rests or slides on the ground when the carriage is unlimbered. When moving the gun by hand, the gun crew is ordered to lift with the command "Up trail!" (or trails) and to let the gun trail rest with the command "Down trail!"

    October 17, 2007

  • Cool stuff! So there must be a whole list (hint) of commands for the 18th-century Art of Blowing Up S***.

    October 17, 2007

  • In glassmaking, a strand of glass, roughly circular in section, drawn out from a gather. Trailing is the process of applying trails as decoration on the body, handle, or foot of a vessel by laying or winding softened threads on it during production.

    November 9, 2007

  • Tests someone's Endurance or patients

    July 8, 2014