toggle menu
1000+ books


used in a sentence
4 meanings
(click/touch triangles for details)
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
  • But Shizuka had felt a trace of doubt.
    Laura Hillenbrand  --  Unbroken - adapted for young adults
  • trace = tiny amount
  • 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
  • "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
  • I did not think I imagined the trace of satisfaction in her voice.
    Madeline Miller  --  Circe
  • trace = slight indication
  • 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

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
  • They can't trace that stuff if you just use public Wi-Fi.
    John Green  --  Turtles All the Way Down
  • trace = find through investigation
  • 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)

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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Across the table from me, Mychal was working on a new art project—meticulously tracing the waveforms of some song onto a sheet of thin, translucent paper—while Daisy regaled our lunch table with the story of her car purchase, without ever quite revealing how she came across the necessary funds.
    John Green  --  Turtles All the Way Down
tracing = drawing

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
  • 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
  • I was remembering the sea-routes Hermes had drawn for me so long ago. I traced them in my mind.
    Madeline Miller  --  Circe
  • traced = followed
  • I liked feeling his body against mine, one of his hands tracing my spine.
    John Green  --  Turtles All the Way Down
  • tracing = following the path of
  • Some tendrils twisted into tight spirals and traced the warmer ravines, behaving like mist tracking the dank fens of the marsh.
    Delia Owens  --  Where the Crawdads Sing
  • traced = 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)

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.
Search for other examples by interest
General — Google News®
General — Time® Magazine
General — Wikipedia®