trace 1 (trās)
a. A visible mark, such as a footprint, made or left by the passage of a person, animal, or thing.
b. Evidence or an indication of the former presence or existence of something; a vestige: left without a trace of having been there.
a. An extremely small amount or barely perceivable indication: spoke with a trace of sarcasm.
b. A constituent, such as a chemical compound or element, present in quantities less than a standard limit.
3. A path or trail that has been beaten out by the passage of animals or people.
4. An act of researching or ascertaining the origin or location of something: put a trace on the phone call; asked for a trace on a lost package.
5. A line drawn by a recording instrument, such as a cardiograph.
a. The point at which a line, or the curve in which a surface, intersects a coordinate plane.
b. The sum of the elements of the principal diagonal of a matrix.
7. An engram.
v. traced, trac·ing, trac·es
a. To go along or follow (a path, for example): We traced the trail up the mountain.
b. To follow the course or trail of: trace a wounded deer.
a. To ascertain the successive stages in the development or progress of: tracing the life cycle of an insect; trace the history of a family.
b. To discover or determine by searching or researching evidence: trace the cause of a disease.
c. To locate or ascertain the origin of: traced the money to a foreign bank account.
a. To draw (a line or figure); sketch; delineate.
b. To form (letters) with special concentration or care.
a. To copy by following lines seen through a sheet of transparent paper.
b. To follow closely (a prescribed pattern): The skater traced a figure eight.
a. To imprint (a design) by pressure with an instrument on a superimposed pattern.
b. To make a design or series of markings on (a surface) by such pressure on a pattern.
6. To record (a variable), as on a graph.
1. To make one's way along a trail or course: We traced along the ridge.
2. To have origins; be traceable: linguistic features that trace to West Africa.
Occurring in extremely small amounts or in quantities less than a standard limit.
[Middle English, track, from Old French, from tracier, to trace, from Vulgar Latin *tractiāre, from Latin tractus, a dragging, course, from past participle of trahere, to draw.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
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