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used in a sentence
4 meanings
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1  —as in:
found a trace of
Definition a small quantity; or any indication or evidence of
The exact meaning of this sense of trace depends upon its context. For example:
  • a small indication that something was present — as in "The plane disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean without leaving a trace."
  • a very small amount of something — as in "The blood test showed a trace of steroids."
  • any evidence of something — as in "We did not find a trace of the gene."
  • There was not a trace of the defendant's DNA at the crime scene.
trace = a tiny quantity or indication
Other Uses (with this meaning)
  • The study found traces of cocaine on most $20 bills used in large cities of the United States and Canada.
  • traces = tiny quantities
  • There isn't a trace of evidence to support her story.
  • trace = a tiny quantity or indication
  • With a warrant we can search her place for any trace of red fibers that match those found on Chase's clothes.
    Delia Owens  --  Where the Crawdads Sing
  • trace = small quantity
  • "Yes, it is," the Warden agreed, with just a trace of disappointment in her voice.
    Louis Sachar  --  Holes
  • trace = small amount
  • But Nat had slipped out of the room and his halfhearted pursuers reported not a single trace of him.
    Elizabeth George Speare  --  The Witch of Blackbird Pond
  • trace = indication or sign
  • I did not think I imagined the trace of satisfaction in her voice.
    Madeline Miller  --  Circe
  • trace = slight indication
  • He was unshaven, and there was the trace of an empty smile.
    Daniel Keyes  --  Flowers for Algernon — Novel
  • trace = slight indication
  • There wasn't a trace of cunning in May, and you could depend on her not to overthink her answers.
    Sue Monk Kidd  --  The Secret Life of Bees
  • trace = tiny amount
  • There wasn't a trace of sarcasm.
    Kiera Cass  --  The Selection
trace = any indication

Dictionary / pronunciation — Google®Dictionary / more samples — Oxford® USDictionary list —®
2  —as in:
trace the origin or development
Definition to find, search, research, or keep track of
This sense of trace usually has to do with information. It's specific meaning depends on its context. For example:
to find or search for something through investigation — often the origin of something:
  • "The police traced the call." — found out where it originated
  • "We are tracing the lost luggage" — searching for
  • "Can you trace the problem to its source?" — find through investigation
  • "She traced her family history to discover that her great-grandmother came to the United States from Lithuania when the Nazis occupied it." — discovered something through investigation
to research or report on the development of something
  • "She traced the history of the automobile in her paper." — researched the development of something
  • "Her presentation traced recent progress in alternative energy solutions." — reported on
to monitor or keep track of the progress or development of something
  • "She traces the progress of at-risk students." — monitors information
  • "I used binoculars to trace her progress up the mountain." — monitor, follow, or track
  • Early cat domestication is traced back to China over 5,000 years ago.
traced = found through investigation
Other Uses (with this meaning)
  • They traced the illnesses back to a single restaurant.
  • traced = found the origin through investigation
  • Were they able to trace the phone call?
  • trace = find the origin through investigation
  • The book traces the development of the smartphones.
  • traces = reports research findings
  • She traced the student's progress.
  • traced = tracked the development of
  • She used a pre-paid phone that is untraceable.
  • untraceable = not able to track or discover who owned it
    (editor's note:  The prefix "un-" in untraceable means not and reverses the meaning of traceable. This is the same pattern you see in words like unhappy, unknown, and unlucky.)
  • He didn't say any more, but it was easy enough for me to trace back the story and reconstruct it.
    Agatha Christie  --  And Then There Were None
  • trace = find through investigation
  • They can't trace that stuff if you just use public Wi-Fi.
    John Green  --  Turtles All the Way Down
  • trace = find through investigation
  • I was informed of the accident by a policeman: the car was mine, and they'd traced the licence.
    Margaret Atwood  --  The Blind Assassin
  • traced = researched (to find where it came from)
  • None of the boys could have found good reason for this; what intelligence had been shown was traceable to Piggy while the most obvious leader was Jack.
    William Golding  --  Lord of the Flies
traceable = able to be followed (to its source)
(Editor's note:  The suffix "-able" means able to be. This is the same pattern you see in words like breakable, understandable, and comfortable.)

Dictionary / pronunciation — Google®Dictionary / more samples — Oxford® USDictionary list —®
3  —as in:
trace a picture or outline
Definition copy the lines of an image; or draw an outline; or carefully draw a specific pattern
This sense of trace has to do with drawing, but it's specific meaning depends on its context. For example:
copying the outline of an image
  • "She used tracing paper to make a copy." — paper you can see through, so that when it is placed on a picture, you can use a pencil to follow the lines of the image being copied
  • "She projected the image onto the wall, hung a sheet of paper there, and traced the projected image onto the paper." — followed the lines with her pencil
draw an outline or a specific pattern
  • "She used her toe to trace half the fish symbol in the sand." — draw a simple outline
  • "The child used a stick to trace circles and swirls in the mud." — draw
  • She didn't have a camera or a copier, so she used a pencil to trace an outline of the picture on thin paper.
trace = draw (by following the image)
Other Uses (with this meaning)
  • She used a stick to trace a mysterious symbol on the sand.
  • trace = draw a specific pattern
  • She used a projector and a pencil to trace an image of an eagle on the paper and then filled in the painting with water colors.
  • trace = draw (by following the image)
  • Then he focused on Jesus bending down, his finger tracing words in the sand at the Pharisees' feet, sending the men scattering in fear.
    Laura Hillenbrand  --  Unbroken
  • tracing = drawing
  • The touch of a cluster of leaves revolved it slowly, tracing, like the leg of compass, a thin red circle in the water.
    F. Scott Fitzgerald  --  The Great Gatsby
  • tracing = following along
  • While he ate the last of the pears, I marked out his route with stones, tracing the stops and dangers.
    Madeline Miller  --  Circe
  • tracing = drawing
  • In the clean white sand on the floor Hannah traced a careful B. Looking at Prudence, Kit held her breath.
    Elizabeth George Speare  --  The Witch of Blackbird Pond
  • traced = drew
  • Her fingers were tracing the book's outline and as the shape became familiar her face looked surprised and then stunned.
    Ray Bradbury  --  Fahrenheit 451
  • tracing = following along (drawing)
  • Syme had fallen silent for a moment, and with the handle of his spoon was tracing patterns in the puddle of stew.
    George Orwell  --  1984
  • tracing = drawing
  • After they discussed the list, Mabel traced Kya's feet on a piece of brown paper bag, then said, "Well, come back tomorrer and there'll be a stack here for ya."
    Delia Owens  --  Where the Crawdads Sing
traced = drew an outline of

Dictionary / pronunciation — Google®Dictionary / more samples — Oxford® USDictionary list —®
4  —as in:
traced a path
Definition to follow
The exact meaning of this sense of trace depends upon its context. For example:
  • "The hunters traced the deer into the woods." — followed or tracked
  • "With soft kisses, she gently traced the scar running down his cheek." — followed
  • "The path traces along the edge of the forest." — follows
  • "A single tear traced its way down her cheek." — followed a specific path
  • They followed a path that traces along the edges of a dark forest.
traces = follows or runs
Other Uses (with this meaning)
  • She used her finger to trace a route on the map.
  • trace = follow
  • A single tear traced its way down her cheek.
  • traced = followed a specific path
  • ...I can read my journals from this period and trace the evolution—of a young girl rewriting her history.
    Tara Westover  --  Educated
  • trace = follow
  • Softly, he spoke of their lives, tracing the paths they'd taken since coming to California in 1919.
    Laura Hillenbrand  --  Unbroken - adapted for young adults
  • tracing = verbally following
  • When I quitted Geneva my first labour was to gain some clue by which I might trace the steps of my fiendish enemy.
    Mary Shelley  --  Frankenstein
  • trace = track or follow
  • "Me neither," he said, his eyes tracing the bird's circular flight.
    Khaled Hosseini  --  The Kite Runner
  • tracing = following
  • In spirit she walks the city, traces its labyrinths, its dingy mazes: each assignation, each rendezvous, each door and stair and bed.
    Margaret Atwood  --  The Blind Assassin
  • traces = follows
  • The course of the little brook might be traced by its merry gleam afar into the wood's heart of mystery, which had become a mystery of joy.
    Nathaniel Hawthorne  --  The Scarlet Letter
  • traced = followed
  • She puzzled over the patchwork of scraps for a long time, tracing the lines with her finger, murmuring the parts of words.
    Jeanne DuPrau  --  The City of Ember
tracing = following

Dictionary / pronunciation — Google®Dictionary / more samples — Oxford® USDictionary list —®
Less commonly:
See a comprehensive dictionary for specialized meanings of trace in mathematics, medicine, engineering and other areas.
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