trailblaze

[ treyl-bleyz ]
/ ˈtreɪlˌbleɪz /

verb (used with object), trail·blazed, trail·blaz·ing.

to blaze a trail through (a forest, wilderness, or the like) for others to follow.
to be a pioneer in (a particular subject, technique, etc.).

verb (used without object), trail·blazed, trail·blaz·ing.

to work or serve as a trailblazer.

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Origin of trailblaze

Back formation from trailblazer
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does trailblaze mean?

To trailblaze is to literally make a trail where there wasn’t one, such as through a forest or an area of wilderness. In a figurative sense, it means to be the first (or one of the first) to do something, which allows others to follow in that “path” and build on that progress.

The metaphorical meaning of trailblaze is much more common, and the noun trailblazer is more common than the verb.

Example: Her book trailblazed a new kind of young adult fiction.

Where does trailblaze come from?

Trailblaze is a back formation of trailblazer (“a person who blazes trails”), meaning trailblazer came first (it’s first recorded in the early 1900s) and then got turned into the verb trailblaze. The word blaze in this phrase doesn’t mean “to burn brightly” but instead refers to making marks on a trail (called blazes) for others to follow. It is probably derived from Middle Low German blas, meaning “white marking.”

In the original sense, this is what it meant to trailblaze: to mark a path, traditionally by cutting a mark into the bark of trees, so that others could follow the same way. A person who did this was called a trailblazer. Such trailblazers were often pioneers, meaning they blazed those trails on their way to settling new places.

Over time, trailblazer started to be used metaphorically—instead of referring to a person who cut a literal path, it started to mean someone who did something new, like inventing a new medical technique or creating a new kind of art. Importantly, this sense of trailblaze still indicates that what has been done will allow others to follow, especially when they have been prevented from doing so in the past. For example, the first woman to achieve a specific accomplishment (such as to perform a spacewalk) is often said to have trailblazed the way for other women to follow in her footsteps. Just like literally blazing a trail, this is difficult and involves many obstacles, but clearing those obstacles makes it easier for others to follow.

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What are some other forms of trailblaze?

  • trailblazer (noun)
  • trailblazed (past tense)
  • trailblazing (adjective)

What are some synonyms for trailblaze?

What are some words that share a root or word element with trailblaze

 

What are some words that often get used in discussing trailblaze?

How is trailblaze used in real life?

Trailblaze is most often used in discussions of someone who was the first to accomplish something, whether they’re a scientist, film director, politician, or other profession. It can also be used in the context of products, like cars or computers, that are the first of their kind.

 

 

Try using trailblaze!

Which of the following choices is not a synonym of trailblaze?

A. pave the way
B. pioneer
C. follow
D. clear a path

Example sentences from the Web for trailblaze