A trace is a mark or evidence that something exists.

  • Your fingerprints leave a trace whenever you touch something.
  • Scientists are looking for traces of life on other planets.
  • Traces of arsenic were found in the drinking water. (Even a small amount of arsenic is dangerous!)
  • Anyone who surfs the internet leaves some sort of a trace.
  • The man disappeared without a trace.
  • There’s no trace of the woman who mysteriously vanished. (She left no evidence related to her disappearance.)

The word "trace" is also used as a verb:

simplepastpast participle
  • Kevin can trace his family history back to Germany and the Netherlands. (trace = go back to find the point of origin)
  • The police were able to trace a phone call made from kidnappers who were soon apprehended.
  • I tried to retrace my steps when I discovered that my cell phone was missing. (To retrace is to go back over an area that was previously travelled.)

To trace something also means that a person places a piece of plain paper on top of a picture and then draws an outline based on what is beneath.


  • Someone traced the head of a man.
  • After the head was traced, the face was filled in.
  • Detectives traced the body of a man who was killed in the street.
  • Learning how to trace is helpful for people who are just learning how to draw.

Click here to go to the Word of the Day page.

July 20, 2015