Definition of trace verb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//treɪs//
    ; NAmE NAmE//treɪs//
    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they trace
    BrE BrE//treɪs//
    ; NAmE NAmE//treɪs//
    he / she / it traces
    BrE BrE//ˈtreɪsɪz//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈtreɪsɪz//
    past simple traced
    BrE BrE//treɪst//
    ; NAmE NAmE//treɪst//
    past participle traced
    BrE BrE//treɪst//
    ; NAmE NAmE//treɪst//
    -ing form tracing
    BrE BrE//ˈtreɪsɪŋ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈtreɪsɪŋ//
    Phone services
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  1. 1  trace somebody/something (to something) to find or discover somebody/something by looking carefully for them/it synonym track somebody/somethingdown We finally traced him to an address in Chicago. I have been unable to trace the letter you mentioned.
  2. 2  trace something (back) (to something) to find the origin or cause of something She could trace her family tree back to the 16th century. The leak was eventually traced to a broken seal. The police traced the call (= used special electronic equipment to find out who made the telephone call) to her ex-husband's number. See related entries: Phone services
  3. 3trace something (from something) (to something) to describe a process or the development of something Her book traces the town's history from Saxon times to the present day.
  4. 4trace something (out) to draw a line or lines on a surface She traced a line in the sand.
  5. 5trace something to follow the shape or outline of something He traced the route on the map. A tear traced a path down her cheek.
  6. 6trace something to copy a map, drawing, etc. by drawing on transparent paper (= tracing paper) placed over it
  7. Word Originverb Middle English (first recorded as a noun in the sense ‘path that someone or something takes’): from Old French trace (noun), tracier (verb), based on Latin tractus ‘drawing, draught’, from trahere ‘draw, pull’.Extra examples Police have been unable to trace her movements during her final days. She lightly traced the outline of his face with her finger. The book traces the history of the game back to an incident in 1863. The origins of the custom are difficult to trace. The stolen paintings have been successfully traced to a London warehouse. Words have over the centuries acquired meanings not easily traced in dictionaries. Police are anxious to trace the owners of a car parked near the scene. We have not been able to trace the original letter.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: trace

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