See more synonyms for trap on
  1. a contrivance used for catching game or other animals, as a mechanical device that springs shut suddenly.
  2. any device, stratagem, trick, or the like for catching a person unawares.
  3. any of various devices for removing undesirable substances from a moving fluid, vapor, etc., as water from steam or cinders from coal gas.
  4. Also called air trap. an arrangement in a pipe, as a double curve or a U-shaped section, in which liquid remains and forms a seal for preventing the passage or escape of air or of gases through the pipe from behind or below.
  5. traps, the percussion instruments of a jazz or dance band.
  6. Trapshooting, Skeet. a device for hurling clay pigeons into the air.
  7. the piece of wood, shaped somewhat like a shoe hollowed at the heel, and moving on a pivot, used in playing the game of trapball.
  8. the game of trapball.
  9. trapdoor.
  10. Sports. an act or instance of trapping a ball.
  11. Also called mousetrap, trap play. Football. a play in which a defensive player, usually a guard or tackle, is allowed by the team on offense to cross the line of scrimmage into the backfield and is then blocked out from the side, thereby letting the ball-carrier run through the opening in the line.
  12. Slang. mouth: Keep your trap shut.
  13. Chiefly British. a carriage, especially a light, two-wheeled one.
verb (used with object), trapped, trap·ping.
  1. to catch in a trap; ensnare: to trap foxes.
  2. to catch by stratagem, artifice, or trickery.
  3. to furnish or set with traps.
  4. to provide (a drain or the like) with a trap.
  5. to stop and hold by a trap, as air in a pipe.
  6. Sports. to catch (a ball) as it rises after having just hit the ground.
  7. Football. to execute a trap against (a defensive player).
verb (used without object), trapped, trap·ping.
  1. to set traps for game: He was busy trapping.
  2. to engage in the business of trapping animals for their furs.
  3. Trapshooting, Skeet. to work the trap.

Origin of trap

before 1000; Middle English trappe (noun), trappen (v.), Old English træppe (noun), cognate with Middle Dutch trappe (Dutch trap) trap, step, staircase; akin to Old English treppan to tread, German Treppe staircase
Related formstrap·like, adjective

Synonyms for trap

See more synonyms for on
1, 2. T rap , pitfall , snare apply to literal or figurative contrivances for deceiving and catching animals or people. Literally, a trap is a mechanical contrivance for catching animals, the main feature usually being a spring: a trap baited with cheese for mice. Figuratively, trap suggests the scheme of one person to take another by surprise and thereby gain an advantage: a trap for the unwary. A pitfall is (usually) a concealed pit arranged for the capture of large animals or of people who may fall into it; figuratively, it is any concealed danger, error, or source of disaster: to avoid the pitfalls of life. A snare is a device for entangling birds, rabbits, etc., with intent to capture; figuratively, it implies enticement and inveiglement: the temptress' snare.


  1. traps, Informal. personal belongings; baggage.
verb (used with object), trapped, trap·ping.
  1. to furnish with or as with trappings; caparison.

Origin of trap

1300–50; Middle English trappe (noun), trappen (v.) < ?


noun Geology.
  1. any of various fine-grained, dark-colored igneous rocks having a more or less columnar structure, especially some form of basalt.

Origin of trap

1785–95; < Swedish trapp, variant of trappa stair (so named from the stepped appearance of their outcrops) < Middle Low German trappe. See trap1
Also called traprock.


noun Scot.
  1. a ladder or ladderlike device used to reach a loft, attic, etc.

Origin of trap

1750–60; < Dutch: stepladder; see trap1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for trap

Contemporary Examples of trap

Historical Examples of trap

  • I might have known that the lawyer would have had me in the trap.


    William J. Locke

  • If I was going into a trap it was just as well to let somebody know whom I was last seen with.

    The Underdog

    F. Hopkinson Smith

  • What was it—madness, a nightmare, or a trap into which he had been decoyed with fiendish artfulness?

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • The soft-hearted angel was caught in the trap set for her pity.

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

  • Besides, you two might like to watch how I set a trap to catch a fox.

British Dictionary definitions for trap


  1. a mechanical device or enclosed place or pit in which something, esp an animal, is caught or penned
  2. any device or plan for tricking a person or thing into being caught unawares
  3. anything resembling a trap or prison
  4. a fitting for a pipe in the form of a U-shaped or S-shaped bend that contains standing water to prevent the passage of gases
  5. any similar device
  6. a device that hurls clay pigeons into the air to be fired at by trapshooters
  7. any one of a line of boxlike stalls in which greyhounds are enclosed before the start of a race
  8. See trap door
  9. a light two-wheeled carriage
  10. a slang word for mouth
  11. golf an obstacle or hazard, esp a bunker
  12. (plural) jazz slang percussion instruments
  13. (usually plural) Australian obsolete, slang a policeman
verb traps, trapping or trapped
  1. (tr) to catch, take, or pen in or as if in a trap; entrap
  2. (tr) to ensnare by trickery; trick
  3. (tr) to provide (a pipe) with a trap
  4. to set traps in (a place), esp for animals
Derived Formstraplike, adjective

Word Origin for trap

Old English træppe; related to Middle Low German trappe, Medieval Latin trappa


  1. an obsolete word for trappings (def. 2)
verb traps, trapping or trapped
  1. (tr often foll by out) to dress or adorn
See also traps

Word Origin for trap

C11: probably from Old French drap cloth




  1. any fine-grained often columnar dark igneous rock, esp basalt
  2. any rock in which oil or gas has accumulated

Word Origin for trap

C18: from Swedish trappa stair (from its steplike formation); see trap 1
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 trap

"contrivance for catching unawares," late Old English træppe "snare, trap," from Proto-Germanic *trap- (cf. Middle Dutch trappe "trap, snare"), related to Germanic words for "stair, step, tread" (cf. Middle Dutch, Middle Low German trappe, treppe, German Treppe "step, stair"). Probably akin to Old French trape, Spanish trampa "trap, pit, snare," but the exact relationship is uncertain. The connecting notion seems to be "that on which an animal steps." Sense of "deceitful practice, trickery" is first recorded c.1400. Sense in speed trap recorded from 1906. Slang meaning "mouth" is from 1776. Trap door "door in a floor or ceiling" (often hidden and leading to a passageway or secret place) is first attested late 14c.


c.1400, "ensnare (an animal), catch in a trap; encircle; capture," from trap (n.) or from Old English betræppan. Figurative use is slightly earlier (late 14c.). Related: Trapped; trapping.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with trap


see fall into a trap; mind like a steel trap.

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