verb (used with object)
to drag or let drag along the ground or other surface; draw or drag along behind.
to bring or have floating after itself or oneself: a racing car trailing clouds of dust.
to follow the track, trail, or scent of; track.
to follow along behind (another), as in a race.
to mark out, as a track.
to tread down or make a path through (grass or the like).
to draw out, as speech; protract.
Ceramics. to pour (slip) on a biscuit so as to produce a pattern.
verb (used without object)
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.
to hang down loosely from something.
to stream from or float after something moving, as dust, smoke, and sparks do.
to follow as if drawn along.
to fish by trailing a line from a moving boat; troll.
to go slowly, lazily, or wearily along.
to pass or extend in a straggling line.
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.
to arrive or be last: He finally trailed in at 10 o'clock.
to be losing in a contest: The home team was trailing 20 to 15.
to creep or crawl, as a serpent.
to follow a track or scent, as of game.
(of a plant) to extend itself in growth along the ground rather than taking root or clinging by tendrils, etc.
a path or track made across a wild region, over rough country, or the like, by the passage of people or animals.
the track, scent, or the like, left by an animal, person, or thing, especially as followed by a hunter, hound, or other pursuer.
something that is trailed or that trails behind, as the train of a skirt or robe.
a stream of dust, smoke, light, people, vehicles, etc., behind something moving.
Artillery. the part of a gun carriage that rests on the ground when the piece is unlimbered.
Architecture. a running vine, leaf, or tendril ornament, as in a Gothic molding.
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.

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

trailingly, adverb
trailless, adjective
nontrailing, adjective
untrailed, adjective
untrailing, adjective

trail, trial (see synonym study at trial).

3. trace, hunt. 16. diminish, shrink, dwindle. 22. See path. 23. spoor. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
trail (treɪl)
vb (when intr, often foll by behind)
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
3.  to chase, follow, or hunt (an animal or person) by following marks or tracks
4.  to lag or linger behind (a person or thing)
5.  (intr) (esp of plants) to extend or droop over or along a surface
6.  (intr) to be falling behind in a race or competition: the favourite is trailing at the last fence
7.  (tr) to tow (a boat, caravan, etc) behind a motor vehicle
8.  (tr) to carry (a rifle) at the full length of the right arm in a horizontal position, with the muzzle to the fore
9.  (intr) to move wearily or slowly: we trailed through the city
10.  (tr) (on television or radio) to advertise (a future programme) with short extracts
11.  trail one's coat to invite a quarrel by deliberately provocative behaviour
12.  a print, mark, or marks made by a person, animal, or object
13.  the act or an instance of trailing
14.  the scent left by a moving person or animal that is followed by a hunting animal
15.  a path, track, or road, esp one roughly blazed
16.  something that trails behind or trails in loops or strands
17.  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
18.  engineering the distance between the point of contact of a steerable wheel and a line drawn from the swivel pin axis to the ground
19.  (on television or radio) an advertisement for a future programme
[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]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

c.1300, "to drag along behind," from O.Fr. trailler "to tow," ult. from V.L. *tragulare "to drag," from L. tragula "dragnet," probably related to trahere "to pull" (see tract (1)). The meaning "follow the trail of" is first recorded 1590.

c.1300, "train of a robe," from the source of trail (v.). The meaning "track or smell left by a person or animal" is also from 1590. Meaning "path or track worn in wilderness" is attested from 1807.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see blaze a trail.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


city, southeastern British Columbia, Canada. It lies along the Columbia River at the mouth of Trail Creek, adjacent to Rossland, in the Selkirk Mountains, and just north of the U.S.-Canada border and the state of Washington

Learn more about Trail with a free trial on

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences for trail
It is more likely government accountants sorted out the paper trail.
Idioms & Phrases
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