- 1a : to hang down so as to drag along or sweep the ground
- b : to extend over a surface in a loose or straggling manner <a vine that trails over the ground>
- c : to grow to such length as to droop over toward the ground <trailing branches of a weeping birch>
- 2a : to walk or proceed draggingly, heavily, or wearily : plod, trudge
- b : to lag behind : do poorly in relation to others
- 3: to move, flow, or extend slowly in thin streams <smoke trailing from chimneys>
- 4a : to extend in an erratic or uneven course or line : straggle
- b : dwindle <her voice trailing off>
- 5: to follow a trail : track game
A trail (also track, byway) is a path with a rough beaten or dirt/stone surface used for travel. Trails may be for use only by walkers and in some places are the main access route to remote settlements. Some trails can also be used for hiking, cycling, or cross-country skiing and less often for moving cattle herds and other livestock.
Trail often denotes a hiking trail. Historically the term was used for a route into or through wild territory used by emigrants (e.g. the Oregon Trail). In the early years of the 20th century the term auto trail was used for a marked highway route, and trail is now also used to designate routes, including highway routes, designated for tourist interest (e.g. National Historic Trails, the Cabot Trail and Quilt Trail). The term trail has also been used by developers and urban planners for a variety of modern paved roads, highways, and boulevards. A particularly unusual use of the term is in the province of Alberta, Canada, which has multi-lane freeways called "trails".
In Australia, the term track can be used interchangeably with trail, and can refer to anything from a dirt road to an unpaved pedestrian path. The term trail gained popularity during World War II, when many servicemen from the United States were stationed in Australia, which probably influenced its being adopted by elements of the Australian media at the time (see Kokoda Track).
In New Zealand, the term track is used almost exclusively except in reference to cross-country skiing.
In the United Kingdom, the term trail is used, but mostly for longer distance walking routes through open country with rough surfacing. In England and Wales, the government-promoted long-distance paths are known as National Trails. Generally the term footpath is preferred for pedestrian routes, but is used for urban paths and sometimes in place of pavement, as well as longer distance trails. Track is used for wider paths (wide enough for vehicles), often used for hiking. The terms bridleway, byway, restricted byway are all recognised legal terms and to a greater or lesser extent in general usage.