Meaning of “trail” in the English Dictionary

"trail" in English

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uk /treɪl/ us /treɪl/

trail noun (SIGNS)

C2 [ C ] the smell or series of marks left by a person, animal, or thing as it moves along:

The dogs are trained to follow the trail left by the fox.
He left a trail of muddy footprints behind him.

[ S ] various pieces of information that together show where someone you are searching for has gone:

The police admit that the robbers have left no trail for them to follow up.
be on the trail of sb/sth

to be searching for someone or something by examining information you find about where they went:

The three men went to the Bahamas, on the trail of a sunken 17th-century galleon full of treasure.


uk /treɪl/ us /treɪl/

trail verb (MOVE SLOWLY)

[ I or T, usually + adv/prep ] to (allow something to) move slowly along the ground or through the air or water, after someone or something:

Katherine, your skirt's trailing in the mud!
As the boat moved along, he trailed his hand in the water.

C2 [ I usually + adv/prep ] to move slowly and without energy or enthusiasm:

The delegates trailed back into the conference room for the afternoon session.
After a mile or two the youngest children were trailing behind.

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Phrasal verb(s)

(Definition of “trail” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"trail" in American English

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trailnoun [ C ]

us /treɪl/

trail noun [ C ] (PATH)

a path through the countryside, often made or used for a particular purpose:

fig. Presidential candidates were on the campaign trail in Mississippi yesterday.

A trail is also a series of marks left by a person, animal, or thing as it moves along:

trailverb [ I/T ]

us /treɪl/

trail verb [ I/T ] (FOLLOW)

to follow or come behind:

[ T ] Ray trailed Kate up to the porch.
[ I always + adv/prep ] A string of police cars led the president’s limousine and others trailed behind.

In a competition, to trail is to be losing to someone:

[ I ] Dallas trailed 34-21 with less than seven minutes to play in the football game.
[ T ] Bush trailed the governor by only 4 percentage points.
[ I ] Though trailing in the polls, she predicted victory.

Phrasal verb(s)

(Definition of “trail” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"trail" in Business English

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uk /treɪl/ us

[ I or T ] to be less successful than competitors or than expected:

This company's shares have left most rivals trailing.
Precious-metal stocks trailed, at 124.35.
trail behind sth Prices of mortgage-backed securities trailed behind the gains of the Treasury.
Internet access in the U.S. trails Japan when it comes to speed.

[ T ] to advertise something before it is available to buy, see, use, etc:

The heavily trailed announcements on ISA changes were widely welcomed.
The home secretary trailed his new law in an article in a newspaper yesterday.

[ I or T ] to happen after or follow something:

trail behind sth The service, free at the point of use, perpetually trails behind demand.
History suggests that consumer spending declines usually trail consumer confidence declines by about 3 months.

Phrasal verb(s)

trailnoun [ C, usually singular ]

uk /treɪl/ us

a series of activities that someone does in order to achieve something:

acquisition/campaign/comeback trail The bank's acquisition trail across the globe might slow a little although it continues to look at potential opportunities.
be on/go on/hit the trail

to be trying to find, get, or achieve something:

He tells candidates to raise money early, before they hit the trail for speeches and handshakes.
blaze a/the trail

to be the first to do something new:

Netscape and Hotmail were both swallowed up after blazing the trail for larger, less agile competitors.
I'm not blazing a trail for women, I'm doing this for myself.
(hot) on the trail (of sth)

very close to finding or achieving something:

NPR's reporter is hot on the trail of the story.
leave a trail of sth

to leave a series or number of things behind you:

His company went into liquidation leaving a trail of debts.
Over the past 12 months, the company has underperformed the index by over 20%, leaving a trail of disappointed investors.

(Definition of “trail” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)