[ trahy-uhl, trahyl ]
/ ˈtraɪ əl, traɪl /
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See synonyms for: trial / trials on Thesaurus.com

Definition of trial

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Idioms about trial

    on trial,
    1. undergoing examination before a judicial tribunal.
    2. undergoing a probationary or trial period.

Origin of trial

First recorded in1520–30; try + -al2

synonym study for trial

2, 3, 5. Trial , experiment , test imply an attempt to find out something or to find out about something. Trial is the general word for a trying of anything: articles sent for ten days' free trial. Experiment is a trial conducted to prove or illustrate the truth or validity of something, or an attempt to discover something new: an experiment in organic chemistry. Test is a more specific word, referring to a trial under approved and fixed conditions, or a final and decisive trial as a conclusion of past experiments: a test of a new type of airplane. 7. See affliction.



trail, trial
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does trial mean?

In general, a trial is a test or an experiment.

Most commonly, the word refers to a criminal trial in a courtroom before a judge and jury. It is also often used in a scientific context to refer to things like clinical trials and drug trials. It can also refer to a hardship. It is commonly used in phrases like trial and error and trial by fire. It is most commonly used as a noun but it can also be used as an adjective and a verb.

Example: There are 500 people participating in our research trial for a new heart medication.

Where does trial come from?

The first records of trial come from the 1500s. It comes from the Anglo-French trier, meaning “to try” (the word try comes from the same term).

In a general sense, a trial of something is a test of it. This sense is seen in the common phrase trial and error, which refers to a process of continually trying or testing something, making mistakes, and trying and testing it again until you get it right. If you decide to test something out for a limited amount of time, you do so with a trial run or during a trial period.

Trial can be used to describe an ordeal or situation that subjects someone to trying times, testing their strength or endurance, as in the expression trials and tribulations. A trial by fire is a test of one’s abilities under pressure.

A trial by jury is also a kind of test, and if you’re the one on trial, you’ll need a trial lawyer. In a scientific context, a clinical trial is an investigation of a new medical treatment to see if it will work in humans. Pharmaceutical trials and drug trials test whether new medicines are safe and effective. Such medicines are said to be in the process of being trialled.

Athletes in certain sports must compete against other athletes in trials in order to qualify for a competition. This sense is seen in phrases like Olympic trial and time trial

Trial has many other specific meanings but they all deal with testing something, trying something out temporarily, or performing an experiment.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to trial?

  • intertrial (adjective)
  • mistrial (noun)
  • nontrial (noun)
  • posttrial (adjective)
  • retrial (noun)

What are some synonyms for trial?

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



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


How is trial used in real life?

The main uses of trial—legal trials, scientific trials, and personal trials—are usually seen in a serious context.



Try using trial!

True or False? 

Trial can only be used as a noun.

How to use trial in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for trial (1 of 2)

/ (ˈtraɪəl, traɪl) /

verb trials, trialling or trialled
(tr) to test or make experimental use of (something)the idea has been trialled in several schools

Derived forms of trial

trialling, noun

Word Origin for trial

C16: from Anglo-French, from trier to try

British Dictionary definitions for trial (2 of 2)

/ (ˈtraɪəl) /

noun grammar
a grammatical number occurring in some languages for words in contexts where exactly three of their referents are described or referred to
(modifier) relating to or inflected for this number

Word Origin for trial

C19: from tri- + -al 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

Other Idioms and Phrases with trial


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