verb (used with object), traced, trac·ing.

verb (used without object), traced, trac·ing.

Origin of trace

1250–1300; late Middle English tracen, Middle English: to make one's way, proceed < Middle French tracier < Vulgar Latin *tractiāre, derivative of Latin tractus, past participle of trahere to draw, drag; (noun) Middle English: orig., way, course, line of footprints < Old French, derivative of tracier
Related formsun·traced, adjective

Synonyms for trace

1. T race , vestige agree in denoting marks or signs of something, usually of the past. T race , the broader term, denotes any mark or slight indication of something past or present: a trace of ammonia in water. V estige is more limited and refers to some slight, though actual, remains of something that no longer exists: vestiges of one's former wealth. 2. hint, suggestion, taste, touch. 5. spoor, trail, record. 15. trail.

Antonyms for trace




either of the two straps, ropes, or chains by which a carriage, wagon, or the like is drawn by a harnessed horse or other draft animal.
a piece in a machine, as a bar, transferring the movement of one part to another part, being hinged to each.

Origin of trace

1300–50; Middle English trais < Middle French, plural of trait strap for harness, action of drawing < Latin tractus a drawing, dragging; see tract1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for trace

Contemporary Examples of trace

Historical Examples of trace

  • Only in one respect does he show any trace of advancing years.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • There was no trace of the body in the waters, no drop of blood on the rocks.

  • He had not been to the bank for two days before, and no trace of him was to be found.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • From some other of the author's letters we are able to trace the gradual growth of the work.

  • Then, as a new thought came to the magnate, he spoke with a trace of anxiety.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

British Dictionary definitions for trace




a mark or other sign that something has been in a place; vestige
a tiny or scarcely detectable amount or characteristic
a footprint or other indication of the passage of an animal or person
any line drawn by a recording instrument or a record consisting of a number of such lines
something drawn, such as a tracing
mainly US a beaten track or path
the postulated alteration in the cells of the nervous system that occurs as the result of any experience or learningSee also memory trace, engram
geometry the intersection of a surface with a coordinate plane
maths the sum of the diagonal entries of a square matrix
linguistics a symbol inserted in the constituent structure of a sentence to mark the position from which a constituent has been moved in a generative process
meteorol an amount of precipitation that is too small to be measured
archaic a way taken; route


(tr) to follow, discover, or ascertain the course or development of (something)to trace the history of China
(tr) to track down and find, as by following a trail
to copy (a design, map, etc) by drawing over the lines visible through a superimposed sheet of transparent paper or other material
(tr often foll by out)
  1. to draw or delineate a plan or diagram ofshe spent hours tracing the models one at a time
  2. to outline or sketch (an idea, policy, etc)he traced out his scheme for the robbery
(tr) to decorate with tracery
(tr) to imprint (a design) on cloth, etc
(usually foll by back) to follow or be followed to source; date backhis ancestors trace back to the 16th century
archaic to make one's way over, through, or along (something)
Derived Formstraceable, adjectivetraceability or traceableness, nountraceably, adverbtraceless, adjectivetracelessly, adverb

Word Origin for trace

C13: from French tracier, from Vulgar Latin tractiāre (unattested) to drag, from Latin tractus, from trahere to drag




either of the two side straps that connect a horse's harness to the swingletree
angling a length of nylon or, formerly, gut attaching a hook or fly to a line
kick over the traces to escape or defy control

Word Origin for trace

C14 trais, from Old French trait, ultimately from Latin trahere to drag
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 trace

late 14c., "to make a plan or diagram," from Old French trasser "delineate, score, trace, follow, pursue" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *tractiare "delineate, score, trace" (cf. Spanish trazar "to trace, devise, plan out," Italian tracciare "to follow by foot"), from Latin tractus "track, course," literally "a drawing out," from past participle stem of trahere "to pull, draw" (see tract (n.1)).

Meaning "to pass over" (a path, etc.) is attested from late 14c.; that of "track down, follow the trail of" is early 15c., from trace (n.1). Sense of "draw an outline of" is first recorded late 14c. Meaning "copy a drawing on a transparent sheet laid over it" is recorded from 1762. Related: Traced; tracing.


"straps or chains by which an animal pulls a vehicle," c.1300, from earlier collective plural trays, from Old French traiz, plural of trait "strap for harnessing, act of drawing," from Latin tractus "a drawing, track," from stem of trahere "to pull, draw" (see tract (1)).


"track made by passage of a person or thing," mid-13c., from Old French trace, back-formation from tracier (see trace (v.)). Scientific sense of "indication of minute presence in some chemical compound" is from 1827. Traces "vestiges" is from c.1400.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper