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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
  • Not only are the scars from the arena gone, but those accumulated over years of hunting have vanished without a trace.
    Suzanne Collins  --  The Hunger Games
  • trace = indication that they were ever there
  • But Shizuka had felt a trace of doubt.
    Laura Hillenbrand  --  Unbroken - adapted for young adults
  • trace = tiny amount
  • "Yes, it is," the Warden agreed, with just a trace of disappointment in her voice.
    Louis Sachar  --  Holes
  • trace = small amount
  • September had come, but not a trace of cool weather with it, and we were still sleeping on the back screen porch.
    Harper Lee  --  To Kill a Mockingbird
  • trace = slight indication or sign
  • There was the trace of a grin on her face as she and Rudy Steiner, her best friend, handed out the pieces of bread on the road.
    Markus Zusak  --  The Book Thief
  • trace = slight indication or sign
  • The car he'd stolen had been found deserted on a side street in Louisville last night, but there had been no trace of Paul.
    Kim Edwards  --  The Memory Keeper's Daughter
  • trace = indication or sign
  • When Curly told his wife of his overnight guard duties, she received the news with no trace of annoyance or concern.
    Carl Hiassen  --  Hoot
trace = indication (sign)

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.)
  • It's pretty certain they'll trace your car.
    F. Scott Fitzgerald  --  The Great Gatsby
  • trace = find through investigation
  • He found the audio-capsule, he heard your voice, he was going to trace it.
    Ray Bradbury  --  Fahrenheit 451
  • trace = find out where it came from
  • He says as far as he can trace back the Finches we ain't, but for all he knows we mighta come straight out of Ethiopia durin' the Old Testament.
    Harper Lee  --  To Kill a Mockingbird
  • trace = search (through investigation)
  • In typical cases of juvenile vandalism, the crimes could be traced to a group of youngsters, each trying to outdo the other for thrills.
    Carl Hiassen  --  Hoot
traced = followed through investigation

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)
  • 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
  • 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
  • My fingers trace the circle around the little gold mockingjay and I think of the woods, and of my father, and of my mother and Prim waking up, having to get on with things.
    Suzanne Collins  --  The Hunger Games
  • trace = follow along the outline of
  • They got to work, tracing from original Maps to wax paper, one by one, trying to keep it clean and correct while hurrying as fast as possible.
    James Dashner  --  The Maze Runner
  • tracing = copying
  • He picked up a small stick and traced in the dirt.
    Ben Mikaeslen  --  Touching Spirit Bear
  • traced = drew
  • I reached out and touched it, remembering the way those brushstrokes felt. I traced them until my finger fell off the edge of the canvas. I traced them until my finger fell off the edge of the canvas.
    John Corey Whaley  --  Nogin
traced = followed (with his finger)

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
  • 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
  • He wanted to reach out and trace the delicate curved bones of her ribs; he wanted to kiss her at the point the bones met, stretching away like wings.
    Kim Edwards  --  The Memory Keeper's Daughter
  • trace = track or follow (with his finger)
  • You could still trace the stone causeways that led up to the ruined gates where the last splinters of wood hung to the worn, rusted hinges.
    Rudyard Kipling  --  The Jungle Book
  • trace = follow
  • His fingers were tracing my lips.
    Kiera Cass  --  The Selection
  • tracing = following the outline of
  • Even after the lights had gone up, while they were shuffling slowly along with the crowd towards the lifts, its ghost still fluttered against her lips, still traced fine shuddering roads of anxiety and pleasure across her skin.
    Aldous Huxley  --  Brave New World
  • traced = followed
  • The slender tops fairly flapped and swished in the passionate torrent, bending and swirling backward and forward, round and round, tracing indescribable combinations of vertical and horizontal curves, while I clung with muscles firm braced, like a bobolink on a reed.
    Jon Krakauer  --  Into the Wild
  • tracing = following
  • I traced the patterns carved into the perfect block of stone beneath me, not meeting his eyes.
    Kiera Cass  --  The Selection
traced = followed

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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