[ treyl ]
See synonyms for: trailtrailedtrailing on

verb (used with object)
  1. to drag or let drag along the ground or other surface; draw or drag along behind.

  2. to bring or have floating after itself or oneself: a racing car trailing clouds of dust.

  1. to follow the track, trail, or scent of; track.

  2. to follow along behind (another), as in a race.

  3. to mark out, as a track.

  4. to tread down or make a path through (grass or the like).

  5. to draw out, as speech; protract.

  6. Ceramics. to pour (slip) on a biscuit so as to produce a pattern.

verb (used without object)
  1. to be drawn or dragged along the ground or some other surface, as when hanging from something moving: Her long bridal gown trailed across the floor.

  2. to hang down loosely from something.

  1. to stream from or float after something moving, as dust, smoke, and sparks do.

  2. to follow as if drawn along.

  3. to fish by trailing a line from a moving boat; troll.

  4. to go slowly, lazily, or wearily along.

  5. to pass or extend in a straggling line.

  6. to change gradually or wander from a course, so as to become weak, ineffectual, etc. (usually followed by off or away): Her voice trailed off into silence.

  7. to arrive or be last: He finally trailed in at 10 o'clock.

  8. to be losing in a contest: The home team was trailing 20 to 15.

  9. to creep or crawl, as a serpent.

  10. to follow a track or scent, as of game.

  11. (of a plant) to extend itself in growth along the ground rather than taking root or clinging by tendrils, etc.

  1. a path or track made across a wild region, over rough country, or the like, by the passage of people or animals.

  2. the track, scent, or the like, left by an animal, person, or thing, especially as followed by a hunter, hound, or other pursuer.

  1. something that is trailed or that trails behind, as the train of a skirt or robe.

  2. a stream of dust, smoke, light, people, vehicles, etc., behind something moving.

  3. Artillery. the part of a gun carriage that rests on the ground when the piece is unlimbered.

  4. Architecture. a running vine, leaf, or tendril ornament, as in a Gothic molding.

Idioms about trail

  1. trail arms, Military.

    • to hold a rifle in the right hand at an oblique angle, with the muzzle forward and the butt a few inches off the ground.

    • a command to trail arms.

Origin of trail

First recorded in 1275–1325; Middle English trailen “to draw or drag in the rear”; compare Old English træglian “to tear off”; cognate with Middle Dutch traghelen “to drag”; akin to Latvian dragât “to tear off, drag”

synonym study For trail

22. See path.

Other words for trail

Other words from trail

  • trail·ing·ly, adverb
  • trailless, adjective
  • non·trail·ing, adjective
  • un·trailed, adjective
  • un·trail·ing, adjective

Words that may be confused with trail

Words Nearby trail Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use trail in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for trail


/ (treɪl) /

  1. to drag or stream, or permit to drag or stream along a surface, esp the ground: her skirt trailed; she trailed her skipping rope

  2. to make (a track or path) through (a place): to trail a way; to trail a jungle

  1. to chase, follow, or hunt (an animal or person) by following marks or tracks

  2. (when intr, often foll by behind) to lag or linger behind (a person or thing)

  3. (intr) (esp of plants) to extend or droop over or along a surface

  4. (intr) to be falling behind in a race or competition: the favourite is trailing at the last fence

  5. (tr) to tow (a boat, caravan, etc) behind a motor vehicle

  6. (tr) to carry (a rifle) at the full length of the right arm in a horizontal position, with the muzzle to the fore

  7. (intr) to move wearily or slowly: we trailed through the city

  8. (tr) (on television or radio) to advertise (a future programme) with short extracts

  9. trail one's coat to invite a quarrel by deliberately provocative behaviour

  1. a print, mark, or marks made by a person, animal, or object

  2. the act or an instance of trailing

  1. the scent left by a moving person or animal that is followed by a hunting animal

  2. a path, track, or road, esp one roughly blazed

  3. something that trails behind or trails in loops or strands

  4. the part of a towed gun carriage and limber that connects the two when in movement and rests on the ground as a partial support when unlimbered

  5. engineering the distance between the point of contact of a steerable wheel and a line drawn from the swivel pin axis to the ground

  6. (on television or radio) an advertisement for a future programme

Origin of trail

C14: from Old French trailler to draw, tow, from Vulgar Latin tragulāre (unattested), from Latin trāgula dragnet, from trahere to drag; compare Middle Dutch traghelen to drag

Derived forms of trail

  • trail-less, adjective

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with trail


see blaze a trail.

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