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verb (used with object), trimmed, trim·ming.
  1. to put into a neat or orderly condition by clipping, paring, pruning, etc.: to trim a hedge.
  2. to remove (something superfluous or dispensable) by or as if by cutting (often followed by off): to trim off loose threads from a ragged edge.
  3. to cut down, as to required size or shape: trim a budget; trim a piece of wood.
  4. Aeronautics. to level off (an airship or airplane) in flight.
  5. Nautical.
    1. to distribute the load of (a ship) so that it sits well in the water.
    2. to stow or arrange, as cargo.
    3. to adjust (the sails or yards) with reference to the direction of the wind and the course of the ship.
  6. to decorate or adorn with ornaments or embellishments: to trim a dress with fur.
  7. to arrange goods in (a store window, showcase, etc.) as a display.
  8. to prepare or adjust (a lamp, fire, etc.) for proper burning.
  9. Informal.
    1. to rebuke or reprove.
    2. to beat or thrash.
    3. to defeat.
  10. to dress or array (often followed by up).
verb (used without object), trimmed, trim·ming.
  1. Nautical.
    1. to assume a particular position or trim in the water, as a vessel.
    2. to adjust the sails or yards with reference to the direction of the wind and the course of the ship.
  2. to pursue a neutral or cautious policy between parties.
  3. to accommodate one's views to the prevailing opinion for reasons of expediency.
  1. the condition, order, or fitness of a person or thing for action, work, use, etc.
  2. Nautical.
    1. the set of a ship in the water, especially the most advantageous one.
    2. the condition of a ship with reference to its fitness for sailing.
    3. the adjustment of sails, rigging, etc., with reference to wind direction and the course of the ship.
    4. the condition of a submarine as regards buoyancy.
  3. a person's dress, adornment, or appearance.
  4. material used for decoration or embellishment; decorative trimming.
  5. decoration of a store window for the display of merchandise; window dressing.
  6. a trimming by cutting, clipping, or the like.
  7. a haircut that restores the previous cut to neatness without changing the hair style.
  8. something that is cut off or eliminated.
  9. Aeronautics. the attitude of an airplane with respect to all three axes, at which balance occurs in forward flight under no controls.
  10. Building Trades. finished woodwork or the like used to decorate or border openings or wall surfaces, as cornices, baseboards, or moldings.
  11. Automotive.
    1. the upholstery, knobs, handles, and other equipment inside a motor car.
    2. ornamentation on the exterior of an automobile, especially in metal or a contrasting color.
adjective, trim·mer, trim·mest.
  1. pleasingly neat or smart in appearance: trim lawns.
  2. in good condition or order.
  3. (of a person) in excellent physical condition: Swimming is a good way to keep trim.
  4. slim; lean.
  5. Obsolete. good, excellent, or fine.
  1. trimly.
  1. trim one's sails. sail(def 19).

Origin of trim

before 900; probably continuing Old English trymman, trymian to strengthen, prepare (not recorded in ME), derivative of trum strong, active; akin to Irish dron strong, Greek drȳmós coppice, Latin dūrus hard. See tree
Related formstrim·ly, adverbtrim·ness, nouno·ver·trim, verb, o·ver·trimmed, o·ver·trim·ming.pre·trim, verb, pre·trimmed, pre·trim·ming.

Synonyms for trim

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for trim

Contemporary Examples of trim

Historical Examples of trim

British Dictionary definitions for trim


adjective trimmer or trimmest
  1. neat and spruce in appearance
  2. slim; slender
  3. in good condition
verb trims, trimming or trimmed (mainly tr)
  1. to put in good order, esp by cutting or pruning
  2. to shape and finish (timber)
  3. to adorn or decorate
  4. (sometimes foll by off or away) to cut so as to removeto trim off a branch
  5. to cut down to the desired size or shapeto trim material to a pattern
  6. dialect to decorateto trim a Christmas tree
  7. nautical
    1. (also intr)to adjust the balance of (a vessel) or (of a vessel) to maintain an even balance, by distribution of ballast, cargo, etc
    2. (also intr)to adjust (a vessel's sails) to take advantage of the wind
    3. to stow (cargo)
  8. to balance (an aircraft) before flight by adjusting the position of the load or in flight by the use of trim tabs, fuel transfer, etc
  9. (also intr) to modify (one's opinions, etc) to suit opposing factions or for expediency
  10. informal to thrash or beat
  11. informal to rebuke
  12. obsolete to furnish or equip
  1. a decoration or adornment
  2. the upholstery and decorative facings, as on the door panels, of a car's interior
  3. proper order or fitness; good shapein trim
  4. a haircut that neatens but does not alter the existing hairstyle
  5. nautical
    1. the general set and appearance of a vessel
    2. the difference between the draught of a vessel at the bow and at the stern
    3. the fitness of a vessel
    4. the position of a vessel's sails relative to the wind
    5. the relative buoyancy of a submarine
  6. dress or equipment
  7. US window-dressing
  8. the attitude of an aircraft in flight when the pilot allows the main control surfaces to take up their own positions
  9. films a section of shot cut out during editing
  10. material that is trimmed off
  11. decorative mouldings, such as architraves, picture rails, etc
Derived Formstrimly, adverbtrimness, noun

Word Origin for trim

Old English trymman to strengthen; related to trum strong, Old Irish druma tree, Russian drom thicket


  1. the county town of Meath, Republic of Ireland; 12th-century castle, medieval cathedral; textiles and machinery. Pop: 5894 (2002)
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 trim

probably from Old English trymman "strengthen, make ready," from trum "strong, stable," from Proto-Germanic *trumaz; said to be cognate with Sanskrit drumah "tree," Greek drymos "copse, thicket," drys "tree, oak," and Old English treow (see tree). Examples in Middle English are wanting.

Original sense is preserved in nautical phrase in fighting trim (see trim (n.)). Meaning "make neat by cutting" is first recorded 1520s; that of "decorate, adorn" is from 1540s. Sense of "reduce" is attested from 1966. The adjective sense of "in good condition, neat, fit" is attested from c.1500, probably ultimately from Old English adjective trum.


"state of being prepared," 1580s, nautical jargon, from trim (v.). The meaning "visible woodwork of a house" is recorded from 1884; sense of "ornamental additions to an automobile" is from 1922. Slang meaning "a woman regarded as a sex object" is attested from 1955, American English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper