See more synonyms for trace on
  1. a surviving mark, sign, or evidence of the former existence, influence, or action of some agent or event; vestige: traces of an advanced civilization among the ruins.
  2. a barely discernible indication or evidence of some quantity, quality, characteristic, expression, etc.: a trace of anger in his tone.
  3. an extremely small amount of some chemical component: a trace of copper in its composition.
  4. traces, the series of footprints left by an animal.
  5. the track left by the passage of a person, animal, or object: the trace of her skates on the ice.
  6. Meteorology. precipitation of less than 0.005 inches (0.127 mm).
  7. a trail or path, especially through wild or open territory, made by the passage of people, animals, or vehicles.
  8. engram.
  9. a tracing, drawing, or sketch of something.
  10. a lightly drawn line, as the record drawn by a self-registering instrument.
  11. Mathematics.
    1. the intersection of two planes, or of a plane and a surface.
    2. the sum of the elements along the principal diagonal of a square matrix.
    3. the geometric locus of an equation.
  12. the visible line or lines produced on the screen of a cathode-ray tube by the deflection of the electron beam.
  13. Linguistics. (in generative grammar) a construct that is phonologically empty but serves to mark the place in the surface structure of a sentence from which a noun phrase has been moved by a transformational operation.
  14. Obsolete. a footprint.
verb (used with object), traced, trac·ing.
  1. to follow the footprints, track, or traces of.
  2. to follow, make out, or determine the course or line of, especially by going backward from the latest evidence, nearest existence, etc.: to trace one's ancestry to the Pilgrims.
  3. to follow (footprints, evidence, the history or course of something, etc.).
  4. to follow the course, development, or history of: to trace a political movement.
  5. to ascertain by investigation; find out; discover: The police were unable to trace his whereabouts.
  6. to draw (a line, outline, figure, etc.).
  7. to make a plan, diagram, or map of.
  8. to copy (a drawing, plan, etc.) by following the lines of the original on a superimposed transparent sheet.
  9. to mark or ornament with lines, figures, etc.
  10. to make an impression or imprinting of (a design, pattern, etc.).
  11. (of a self-registering instrument) to print in a curved, broken, or wavy-lined manner.
  12. to put down in writing.
verb (used without object), traced, trac·ing.
  1. to go back in history, ancestry, or origin; date back in time: Her family traces back to Paul Revere.
  2. to follow a course, trail, etc.; make one's way.
  3. (of a self-registering instrument) to print a record in a curved, broken, or wavy-lined manner.

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

See more synonyms for on
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


  1. 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.
  2. a piece in a machine, as a bar, transferring the movement of one part to another part, being hinged to each.
  1. kick over the traces, to throw off restraint; become independent or defiant: He kicked over the traces and ran off to join the navy.

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 traces

Contemporary Examples of traces

Historical Examples of traces

  • Traces of the French descent which the widow boasted of were apparent in Winnie too.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • Of the rest of the fourteen souls on board the Susan, there were no traces.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Here were traces of what Fenton called his "frantic labours."

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

  • The action of the plough has often obliterated the traces of ancient barrows.

    English Villages

    P. H. Ditchfield

  • All traces of many a Norman castle have completely vanished.

    English Villages

    P. H. Ditchfield

British Dictionary definitions for traces


  1. a mark or other sign that something has been in a place; vestige
  2. a tiny or scarcely detectable amount or characteristic
  3. a footprint or other indication of the passage of an animal or person
  4. any line drawn by a recording instrument or a record consisting of a number of such lines
  5. something drawn, such as a tracing
  6. mainly US a beaten track or path
  7. the postulated alteration in the cells of the nervous system that occurs as the result of any experience or learningSee also memory trace, engram
  8. geometry the intersection of a surface with a coordinate plane
  9. maths the sum of the diagonal entries of a square matrix
  10. 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
  11. meteorol an amount of precipitation that is too small to be measured
  12. archaic a way taken; route
  1. (tr) to follow, discover, or ascertain the course or development of (something)to trace the history of China
  2. (tr) to track down and find, as by following a trail
  3. to copy (a design, map, etc) by drawing over the lines visible through a superimposed sheet of transparent paper or other material
  4. (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
  5. (tr) to decorate with tracery
  6. (tr) to imprint (a design) on cloth, etc
  7. (usually foll by back) to follow or be followed to source; date backhis ancestors trace back to the 16th century
  8. 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


  1. either of the two side straps that connect a horse's harness to the swingletree
  2. angling a length of nylon or, formerly, gut attaching a hook or fly to a line
  3. 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 traces



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

Idioms and Phrases with traces


see kick over the traces.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.