1. a structure consisting of a pair of parallel lines of rails with their crossties, on which a railroad train, trolley, or the like runs.
  2. a wheel rut.
  3. evidence, as a mark or a series of marks, that something has passed.
  4. Usually tracks. footprints or other marks left by an animal, person, or vehicle: a lion’s tracks; car tracks.
  5. a path made or beaten by or as if by the feet of people or animals; trail: to follow the track of a murderer.
  6. a line of travel or motion: the track of a bird.
  7. a course or route followed.
  8. a course of action, conduct, or procedure: on the right track to solve the problem.
  9. a path or course made or laid out for some particular purpose.
  10. a series or sequence of events or ideas.
  11. something associated with making a track, as the wheel span of a vehicle or the tread of a tire.
  12. a caterpillar tread.
  13. Sports.
    1. a course laid out for running or racing.
    2. the group of sports performed on such a course, as running or hurdling, as distinguished from field events.
    3. both track and field events as a whole.
  14. Recording.
    1. a band of recorded sound laid along the length of a magnetic tape.
    2. band2(def 6).
    3. an individual song or segment of a recording: a title track.
    4. a discrete, separate recording that is combined with other parts of a musical recording to produce the final aural version: a special rhythm track added to the basic track.
  15. Automotive. the distance between the centers of the treads of either the front or rear wheels of a vehicle.
  16. Computers. a data-recording path on a storage medium, as a magnetic disk, tape, or drum, that is accessible to a read-write head in a given position as the medium moves past.
  17. tracks, Slang. needle marks on the arm, leg, or body of a drug user caused by habitual injections.
  18. sound track.
  19. a metal strip or rail along which something, as lighting or a curtain, can be mounted or moved.
  20. Education. a study program or level of curriculum to which a student is assigned on the basis of aptitude or need; academic course or path.

verb (used with object)

  1. to follow or pursue the track, traces, or footprints of.
  2. to follow (a track, course, etc.).
  3. to make one’s way through; traverse.
  4. to leave footprints on (often followed by up or on): to track the floor with muddy shoes.
  5. to make a trail of footprints with (dirt, snow, or the like): The dog tracked mud all over the living room rug.
  6. to observe or monitor the course or path of (an aircraft, rocket, satellite, star, etc.), as by radar or radio signals.
  7. to observe or follow the course of progress of; keep track of.
  8. to furnish with a track or tracks, as for railroad trains.
  9. Railroads. to have (a certain distance) between wheels, runners, rails, etc.

verb (used without object)

  1. to follow or pursue a track or trail.
  2. to run in the same track, as the wheels of a vehicle.
  3. to be in alignment, as one gearwheel with another.
  4. to have a specified span between wheels or runners: The car’s wheels track about five feet.
  5. Movies, Television. dolly(def 12).
  6. Recording. to follow the undulations in the grooves of a phonograph record.

Verb Phrases

  1. track down, to pursue until caught or captured; follow: to track down a killer.

  1. in one’s tracks, Informal. in the spot in which one is or is standing at the moment: He stopped dead in his tracks, listening for the sound to be repeated.
  2. keep track, to be aware; keep informed: Have you been keeping track of the time?
  3. lose track, to fail to keep informed; neglect to keep a record: He soon lost track of how much money he had spent.
  4. make tracks, Informal. to go or depart in a hurry: to make tracks for the store before closing time.
  5. off the track, departing from the objective or the subject at hand; astray: He can’t tell a story without getting off the track.
  6. on the track of, in search or pursuit of; close upon: They are on the track of a solution to the problem.
  7. on the wrong/right side of the tracks, from a poor or wealthy part of a community or of society: born on the wrong side of the tracks.


  1. the mark or trail left by something that has passed bythe track of an animal
  2. any road or path affording passage, esp a rough one
  3. a rail or pair of parallel rails on which a vehicle, such as a locomotive, runs, esp the rails together with the sleepers, ballast, etc, on a railway
  4. a course of action, thought, etcdon’t start on that track again!
  5. a line of motion or travel, such as flight
  6. an endless jointed metal band driven by the wheels of a vehicle such as a tank or tractor to enable it to move across rough or muddy ground
  7. physics the path of a particle of ionizing radiation as observed in a cloud chamber, bubble chamber, or photographic emulsion
    1. a course for running or racing
    2. (as modifier)track events
  8. US and Canadian
    1. sports performed on a track
    2. track and field events as a whole
  9. a path on a magnetic recording medium, esp magnetic tape, on which information, such as music or speech, from a single input channel is recorded
  10. any of a number of separate sections in the recording on a record, CD, or cassette
  11. a metal path that makes the interconnections on an integrated circuit
  12. the distance between the points of contact with the ground of a pair of wheels, such as the front wheels of a motor vehicle or the paired wheels of an aircraft undercarriage
  13. a hypothetical trace made on the surface of the earth by a point directly below an aircraft in flight
  14. keep track of to follow the passage, course, or progress of
  15. lose track of to fail to follow the passage, course, or progress of
  16. off the beaten track See beaten (def. 4)
  17. off the track away from what is correct or true
  18. on the track of on the scent or trail of; pursuing
  19. the right track the correct line of investigation, inquiry, etc
  20. the wrong track the incorrect line of investigation, inquiry, etc


  1. to follow the trail of (a person, animal, etc)
  2. to follow the flight path of (a satellite, spacecraft, etc) by picking up radio or radar signals transmitted or reflected by it
  3. US railways
    1. to provide with a track
    2. to run on a track of (a certain width)
  4. (of a camera or camera operator) to follow (a moving object) in any direction while operating
  5. to move (a camera) towards the scene (track in) or away from the scene (track out)
  6. to follow a track through (a place)to track the jungles
  7. (intr) (of the pick-up, stylus, etc, of a record player) to follow the groove of a recordthe pick-up tracks badly

late 15c., “footprint, mark left by anything,” from Old French trac “track of horses, trace” (mid-15c.), possibly from a Germanic source (cf. Middle Low German treck, Dutch trek “drawing, pulling;” see trek). Meaning “lines of rails for drawing trains” is from 1805. Meaning “branch of athletics involving a running track” is recorded from 1905. Meaning “single recorded item” is from 1904, originally in reference to phonograph records. Meaning “mark on skin from repeated drug injection” is first attested 1964.

Track record (1955) is a figurative use from racing, “performance history” of an individual car, runner, horse, etc.(1907, but the phrase was more common in sense “fastest speed recorded at a particular track”). To make tracks “move quickly” is American English colloquial first recorded 1835; to cover (one’s) tracks in the figurative sense first attested 1898; to keep track of something is attested from 1883. American English wrong side of the tracks “bad part of town” is by 1901. Track lighting attested from 1970.


“to follow or trace the footsteps of,” 1560s, from track (n.). Related: Tracked; tracking.

In addition to the idioms beginning with track

  • track down
  • track record

also see:

  • cover one’s tracks
  • drop in one’s tracks
  • fast track
  • follow in someone’s footsteps (tracks)
  • inside track
  • jump the track
  • keep (lose) track
  • make tracks
  • off the beaten track
  • off the track
  • one-track mind
  • on the right tack (track)
  • right side of the tracks
  • stop cold (in one’s tracks)
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