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  1. an expanse or area of land, water, etc.; region; stretch.
  2. Anatomy.
    1. a definite region or area of the body, especially a group, series, or system of related parts or organs: the digestive tract.
    2. a bundle of nerve fibers having a common origin and destination.
  3. a stretch or period of time; interval; lapse.
  4. Roman Catholic Church. an anthem consisting of verses of Scripture, sung after the gradual in the Mass from Septuagesima until the day before Easter and on certain other occasions, taking the place of the alleluias and the verse that ordinarily accompany the gradual.
  5. Ornithology. a pteryla.

Origin of tract1

1350–1400; (in senses referring to extent of space) < Latin tractus stretch (of space or time), a drawing out, equivalent to trac-, variant stem of trahere to draw + -tus suffix of v. action; (def 4) < Medieval Latin tractus, apparently identical with the above, though literal sense unexplained
Can be confusedtack tact track tract


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1. district, territory.


  1. a brief treatise or pamphlet for general distribution, usually on a religious or political topic.

Origin of tract2

1400–50; late Middle English tracte, apparently shortening of Medieval Latin tractātus tractate


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essay, homily, disquisition.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tract

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The business proposed was to buy a tract of land, and subdivide it.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • In moving sideways, the Tract or Line must also be considered as to its two sides, viz.


    John Weaver

  • This Tract is only a borrow'd Tract, and which may be drawn any way, as shall be most convenient.


    John Weaver

  • In this tract he invites every man to utter his views on the subject.

    Slavery Ordained of God

    Rev. Fred A. Ross, D.D.

  • There is no shape or proportion in the composition of his tract as it stands.

    Henry the Sixth

    John Blacman

British Dictionary definitions for tract


  1. an extended area, as of land
  2. anatomy a system of organs, glands, or other tissues that has a particular functionthe digestive tract
  3. a bundle of nerve fibres having the same function, origin, and terminationthe optic tract
  4. archaic an extended period of time

Word Origin

C15: from Latin tractus a stretching out, from trahere to drag


  1. a treatise or pamphlet, esp a religious or moralistic one

Word Origin

C15: from Latin tractātus tractate


  1. RC Church an anthem in some Masses

Word Origin

C14: from Medieval Latin tractus cantus extended song; see tract 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for tract


"area," late 15c., "period or lapse of time," from Latin tractus "track, course, space, duration," lit, "a drawing out or pulling," from stem of trahere "to pull, draw," from PIE root *tragh- "to draw, drag, move" (cf. Slovenian trag "trace, track," Middle Irish tragud "ebb," perhaps with a variant form *dhragh-; see drag (v.)). The meaning "stretch of land or water" is first recorded 1550s. Specific U.S. sense of "plot of land for development" is recorded from 1912; tract houses attested from 1963.


"little book, treatise" mid-12c., probably a shortened form of Latin tractatus "a handling, treatise, treatment," from tractare "to handle" (see treat). Not in any other language, according to OED.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

tract in Medicine


  1. An elongated assembly of tissue or organs having a common origin, function, and termination, or a serial arrangement having a common function.
  2. A bundle of nerve fibers having a common origin, termination, and function.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

tract in Science


  1. A series of body organs that work together to perform a specialized function, such as digestion.
  2. A bundle of nerve fibers, especially in the central nervous system, that begin and end in the same place and share a common function.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.