Basic+ Word of the Day: trace

trace (noun, verb) past tense: traced LISTEN

A trace is a piece of evidence of the existence of something.

  • The cave drawings are the only trace they have of that civilization.
  • There was no trace of the missing woman.

A trace can also be a very small amount or sign of a quality.

  • As Martha told us about her father, there was a trace of sadness in her smile.
  • Although the teacher seemed calm, Michelle heard a trace of anger in her voice.

Trace also means ‘to investigate the cause of something.’

  • The health department traced the food poisoning to the school cafeteria.
  • The police traced the stolen goods to an antique shop.

Trace can also mean ‘to draw a copy and follow the lines of the original piece.’

  • The children drew turkeys by tracing their hands.
  • The chef traced the cake pan on a piece of parchment and placed the parchment circle inside the pan.

Common uses

without a trace: with no clue. Example: “Francie’s husband went out for cigarettes and disappeared without a trace.”

trace element: in biology, an element present in a very low amount. Example: “Chromium is a trace element in the human body.”

In pop culture

Listen to Norah Jones, accompanied by her half-sister, Anoushka Shankar, singing “Traces of You.”

There are other meanings of trace.

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Word of the Day is released Monday through Friday.

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