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[traf-ik] /ˈtræf ɪk/
the movement of vehicles, ships, persons, etc., in an area, along a street, through an air lane, over a water route, etc.:
the heavy traffic on Main Street.
the vehicles, persons, etc., moving in an area, along a street, etc.
the transportation of goods for the purpose of trade, by sea, land, or air:
ships of traffic.
trade; buying and selling; commercial dealings.
trade between different countries or places; commerce.
the business done by a railroad or other carrier in the transportation of freight or passengers.
the aggregate of freight, passengers, telephone or telegraph messages, etc., handled, especially in a given period.
communication, dealings, or contact between persons or groups:
traffic between the Democrats and the Republicans.
mutual exchange or communication:
traffic in ideas.
trade in some specific commodity or service, often of an illegal nature:
the vast traffic in narcotics.
illegal commercial trade in human beings for the purpose of exploiting them:
the traffic in young children.
verb (used without object), trafficked, trafficking.
to carry on traffic, trade, or commercial dealings.
to trade or deal in a specific commodity or service, often of an illegal nature (usually followed by in):
to traffic in opium.
verb (used with object), trafficked, trafficking.
(of vehicles or persons) to move over or through (a place):
It's a heavily trafficked bridge.
to trade or deal in (a commodity or service):
to traffic guns.
to trade in (human beings) for the purpose of exploitation:
He was convicted for trafficking illegal immigrants.
Origin of traffic
1495-1505; earlier traffyk < Middle French trafique (noun), trafiquer (v.) < Italian traffico (noun), trafficare (v.), of disputed orig.
Related forms
trafficker, noun
trafficless, adjective
intertraffic, noun, verb, intertrafficked, intertrafficking.
untrafficked, adjective
Synonym Study
4. See trade. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for trafficking
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I did not see that I was often trafficking in unworthiness and baseness.

  • When the trafficking was taking place, the spirits did not show themselves.

  • Sieys wrote from Berlin to reproach Talleyrand with trafficking in his honour.

    Talleyrand Joseph McCabe
  • Is it a lie that he is trafficking with Hamilton and the Whig lords to surrender the castle?

    Graham of Claverhouse Ian Maclaren
  • It is a poor affair to be trafficking in our evidences, or our anything.

    The Assembly of God C. (Charles) H. (Henry) Mackintosh
British Dictionary definitions for trafficking


  1. the vehicles coming and going in a street, town, etc
  2. (as modifier): traffic lights
the movement of vehicles, people, etc, in a particular place or for a particular purpose: sea traffic
  1. the business of commercial transportation by land, sea, or air
  2. the freight, passengers, etc, transported
(usually foll by with) dealings or business: have no traffic with that man
trade, esp of an illicit or improper kind: drug traffic
the aggregate volume of messages transmitted through a communications system in a given period
(mainly US) the number of customers patronizing a commercial establishment in a given time period
verb (intransitive) -fics, -ficking, -ficked
(often foll by in) to carry on trade or business, esp of an illicit kind
(usually foll by with) to have dealings
Derived Forms
trafficker, noun
trafficless, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from Old French trafique, from Old Italian traffico, from trafficare to engage in trade
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
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Word Origin and History for trafficking



c.1500, "trade, commerce," from Middle French trafique (mid-15c.), from Italian traffico (early 14c.), from trafficare "carry on trade," of uncertain origin, perhaps from a Vulgar Latin *transfricare "to rub across" (from Latin trans- "across" + fricare "to rub"), with the original sense of the Italian verb being "touch repeatedly, handle."

Or the second element may be an unexplained alteration of Latin facere "to make, do." Klein suggests ultimate derivation of the Italian word from Arabic tafriq "distribution." Meaning "people and vehicles coming and going" first recorded 1825. Traffic jam is 1917, ousting earlier traffic block (1895).



1540s, from traffic (n.) and preserving the original commercial sense. Related: Trafficked; trafficking. The -k- is inserted to preserve the "k" sound of -c- before a suffix beginning in -i-, -y-, or -e- (cf. picnic/picnicking, panic/panicky, shellac/shellacked).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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