trail [treyl] SynonymsExamplesWord Origin See more synonyms for trail on verb (used with object)

  1. to drag or let drag along the ground or other surface; draw or drag along behind.
  2. to bring or have floating after itself or oneself: a racing car trailing clouds of dust.
  3. to follow the track, trail, or scent of; track.
  4. to follow along behind (another), as in a race.
  5. to mark out, as a track.
  6. to tread down or make a path through (grass or the like).
  7. to draw out, as speech; protract.
  8. Ceramics. to pour (slip) on a biscuit so as to produce a pattern.

verb (used without object)

  1. 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.
  2. to hang down loosely from something.
  3. to stream from or float after something moving, as dust, smoke, and sparks do.
  4. to follow as if drawn along.
  5. to fish by trailing a line from a moving boat; troll.
  6. to go slowly, lazily, or wearily along.
  7. to pass or extend in a straggling line.
  8. 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.
  9. to arrive or be last: He finally trailed in at 10 o’clock.
  10. to be losing in a contest: The home team was trailing 20 to 15.
  11. to creep or crawl, as a serpent.
  12. to follow a track or scent, as of game.
  13. (of a plant) to extend itself in growth along the ground rather than taking root or clinging by tendrils, etc.


  1. a path or track made across a wild region, over rough country, or the like, by the passage of people or animals.
  2. the track, scent, or the like, left by an animal, person, or thing, especially as followed by a hunter, hound, or other pursuer.
  3. something that is trailed or that trails behind, as the train of a skirt or robe.
  4. a stream of dust, smoke, light, people, vehicles, etc., behind something moving.
  5. Artillery. the part of a gun carriage that rests on the ground when the piece is unlimbered.
  6. Architecture. a running vine, leaf, or tendril ornament, as in a Gothic molding.


  1. trail arms, Military.
    1. 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.
    2. a command to trail arms.

Origin of trail 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, dragRelated formstrail·ing·ly, adverbtrail·less, adjectivenon·trail·ing, adjectiveun·trailed, adjectiveun·trail·ing, adjectiveCan be confusedtrail trial (see synonym study at trial)Synonyms for trail See more synonyms for on 3. trace, hunt. 16. diminish, shrink, dwindle. 22. See path. 23. spoor. Related Words for trailing lagging, hunting, tracking, behind, creeping, crawling, dawdling Examples from the Web for trailing Contemporary Examples of trailing

  • Trailing only the economy, education and classroom issues dominated thinking among voters nationwide.

    Why Voters Love Common Core

    Harold Ford Jr.

    November 28, 2014

  • Braley is trailing Republican Joni Ernst by a slight margin heading into Election Day.

    Pro-Life Group Sends Over The Top Mailer

    Ben Jacobs

    October 31, 2014

  • But after pulling ahead of Nunn in September, three recent polls have shown Perdue tying or trailing her.

    The GOP’s Really Big Problem in Georgia

    Patricia Murphy

    October 22, 2014

  • In April, Wehby was the front-runner; now, she is trailing badly and Oregon is safely in the D column.

    What Do Women Want? Not the GOP

    Lloyd Green

    September 8, 2014

  • With a 34 percent approval rating, Brownback is now trailing Democratic gubernatorial nominee Paul Davis.

    The Kansas Independent Who Could Control the Senate

    John Avlon

    September 6, 2014

  • Historical Examples of trailing

  • And Jud, with a stricken look, crossed the floor with trailing feet.

    Way of the Lawless

    Max Brand

  • At a second glance Jake noticed that the Horse was trailing the rope.

    Johnny Bear

    E. T. Seton

  • The wind increased, and in it came by-and-by the trailing skirts of a cloud.

    Wilfrid Cumbermede

    George MacDonald

  • They were trailing a hot scent, a pastime as well as a work that was their life.

    The Law-Breakers

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • He ran on at top speed with Murgatroyd trailing anxiously behind.

    Pariah Planet

    Murray Leinster

  • British Dictionary definitions for trailing trailing adjective

    1. (of a plant) having a long stem which spreads over the ground or hangs looselytrailing ivy

    trail verb

    1. to drag or stream, or permit to drag or stream along a surface, esp the groundher 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. (when intr, often foll by behind) 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 competitionthe 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 slowlywe 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


    1. a print, mark, or marks made by a person, animal, or object
    2. the act or an instance of trailing
    3. the scent left by a moving person or animal that is followed by a hunting animal
    4. a path, track, or road, esp one roughly blazed
    5. something that trails behind or trails in loops or strands
    6. 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
    7. engineering the distance between the point of contact of a steerable wheel and a line drawn from the swivel pin axis to the ground
    8. (on television or radio) an advertisement for a future programme

    Derived Formstrail-less, adjectiveWord Origin for trail 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 Word Origin and History for trailing trail v.

    c.1300, “to hang down loosely and flow behind,” from Old French trailler “to tow,” ultimately from Vulgar Latin *tragulare “to drag,” from Latin tragula “dragnet,” probably related to trahere “to pull” (see tract (n.1)). The meaning “follow the trail of” (an animal, etc.) is first recorded late 14c. Related: Trailed; trailing.

    trail n.

    early 14c., “trailing part of a robe, gown, etc.,” from the source of trail (v.). The meaning “track or smell left by a person or animal” is also from 1580s. Meaning “path or track worn in wilderness” is attested from 1807.

    Idioms and Phrases with trailing trail

    see blaze a trail.

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