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Related to trailing: Trailing zeros, Trailing 12 Months

hit the sawdust trail

1. dated To accept, practice, or convert to Christianity at an evangelist's revival meeting, so as to find redemption, rehabilitation, or spiritual salvation. Alludes to sawdust-covered aisles of the temporary church dwellings for revival meetings in the early 1900s. Primarily heard in US. That travelling evangelist has been pleading for everyone in town to hit the sawdust trail, for he believes that the end is nigh. My friend, the only way you will find peace within yourself is by hitting the sawdust trail at our meeting place over yonder.
2. dated Of an itinerant evangelist preacher, to begin travelling to the next location where one will preach. ("Sawdust trail" is sometimes capitalized in this usage.) Primarily heard in US. Old Bill Baxton? Shoot, he's been hitting the Sawdust Trail for the better part of his life. He probably wouldn't be able to settle down in one place if he tried!
See also: hit, sawdust, trail

the sawdust trail

1. dated The path or journey to redemption or rehabilitation (as for a sinner or criminal) by accepting, practicing, or converting to Christianity at an evangelist revival meeting. Alludes to sawdust-covered aisles of the temporary church dwellings for revival meetings in the early 1900s. Primarily heard in US. That travelling evangelist has been pleading for everyone in town to hit the sawdust trail, for he believes that the end is nigh.
2. (sometimes capitalized) dated The itinerary of or route taken by a travelling evangelist preacher. Primarily heard in US. Old Bill Baxton? Shoot, he's been on the Sawdust Trail for the better part of his life. He probably wouldn't be able to settle down in one place if he tried!
See also: sawdust, trail

throw (someone) off the trail

To misdirect someone away from their point of pursuit; to steer someone's investigation or suspicions in the wrong direction. The mafia accountant had been throwing the authorities off the trail of the mob's money laundering for years. My husband has some suspicions about our affair, but the trip I'm taking for work will throw him off the trail.
See also: off, throw, trail

paper trail

Physical or digital documentation of a person's activities. The con artist wrote fraudulent checks all over the state, leaving a paper trail for police to follow. Frank swore that he wasn't using the company's computer for illegal activities, but the digital paper trail he left proved otherwise.
See also: paper, trail

trail (one's) coat

To incite an argument. If one literally trails one's coat, a passerby could easily step on it, thus creating a tense situation. With a comment like that, she is clearly trailing her coat, and I refuse to take the bait.
See also: coat, trail

blaze (the/a) trail

1. Literally, to create a trail by clearing trees and vegetation or simply by marking trees. Does anyone know who blazed the trail through these woods back in the 18th century?
2. By extension, to be the first to do something, often that which is later emulated or built upon by others. I hope that the rest of my family will move to the West Coast if I blaze the trail and relocate there first. The forefathers of medicine blazed a trail for today's doctors.
See also: blaze, trail

hit the road

To leave. We better hit the road before traffic gets even worse. Hit the road—no one wants you here anyway!
See also: hit, road

blaze a trail

1. Lit. to make and mark a trail. The scout blazed a trail through the forest.
2. Fig. to do early or pioneering work that others will follow up on. Professor Williams blazed a trail in the study of physics.
See also: blaze, trail

hit the road

Fig. to depart; to begin one's journey, especially on a road trip; to leave for home. It's time to hit the road. I'll see you. We have to hit the road very early in the morning.
See also: hit, road

hit the trail

Inf. to leave. (As if one were hiking or riding a horse.) I have to hit the trail before sunset. Let's hit the trail. It's late.
See also: hit, trail

hot on the trail (of someone, some creature, or something)

Fig. very close to finding or catching up with someone, some creature, or something. I am hot on the trail of the book that I have been seeking for months.
See also: hot, on, trail

*on the trail (of someone or something)

 and *on the track of someone or something
seeking someone or something; about to find someone or something. (*Typically: be ~; get ~.) I'm on the trail of a new can opener that is supposed to be easier to use. I spent all morning on the track of a vendor who can meet our requirements.
See also: on, trail

*paper trail

Fig. a series of records that is possible to examine to find out the sequence of things that happen. (*Typically: have ~; leave ~; make ~.) The legal department requires all these forms so that there is a paper trail of all activity.
See also: paper, trail

put someone off the track

 and put someone off the trail
to cause someone to lose a trail that is being followed. (See also put someone off the scent; throw someone off the track.) A distraction put me off the track and I almost got lost in the jungle. I was following an escaped convict and something put me off the trail.
See also: off, put, track

trail (along)

 (after someone or something)
1. to drag along after someone or something. His pants were torn, and a piece of his trouser leg trailed along after him. His trouser leg trailed after him.
2. to follow along after someone or something. A little dog trailed along after Mary and Karen. Is that your dog trailing along?

trail behind

 (someone or something)
1. to follow or drag along behind someone or something. A long satin train trailed behind the bride. A long train trailed behind.
2. to move along behind someone or a group in a competition. Sally trailed behind the rest of the marathon runners. Roger trailed behind Dave during most of the race.
See also: behind, trail

trail off

 and trail away
to fade away, as with speech, words, singing, etc. Her voice trailed off as she saw who was waiting at the door. Ken's words trailed away as he passed out.
See also: off, trail

trail over something

to lie behind, flowing out over something. Her long gown trailed over the marble floor. The flowering vine trailed over the wall, making a lovely little garden area.
See also: over, trail

trail someone or something by something

to have a smaller score than someone or something by a specific number of points. Our team trails the visiting team by only six points. I trailed her by only a few points.
See also: trail

blaze a trail

Find a new path or method; begin a new undertaking. For example, His research blazed a trail for new kinds of gene therapy. This expression was first used literally in the 18th century for the practice of marking a forest trail by making blazes, that is, marking trees with notches or chips in the bark. [Late 1800s]
See also: blaze, trail

hit the road

Also, hit the trail. Set out, as on a trip. For example, Come on, it's time to hit the road, or Jack hit the trail at dawn. [Late 1800s]
See also: hit, road

a paper trail

A paper trail is written evidence of someone or something's activities. Police investigations found a paper trail of checks that were written on false bank accounts. Unlike conventional voting systems, many electronic systems leave no paper trail to allow results to be double-checked.
See also: paper, trail

hit the road

COMMON If you hit the road, you begin a journey. I said my goodbyes and hit the road back to central Nashville. Anyway, I must get dressed and hit the road.
See also: hit, road

blaze a trail


blaze the trail

COMMON If someone blazes a trail or blazes the trail, they are the first person to do or discover something new and important, and this makes it easier for other people to do the same thing. With his first book Parker has blazed a new trail in American literature. The party is blazing the trail for the advancement of women in politics. Note: You can use trail-blazing to describe someone who does something new and important or to describe the thing that they do. Many companies are happy to follow in the shadow of a trail-blazing competitor. This trail-blazing study went into immense detail on the habits of pub-goers. Note: People or organizations who act like this can be called trail-blazers and what they do is called trail-blazing. They are trail-blazers who took on a man's world and made it theirs. Despite all his trail-blazing, he spent most of his life looking back to the works of Chaucer and Edmund Spenser. Note: New trails or routes through forests were often marked by `blazing', which involved making white marks called `blazes' on tree trunks, usually by chipping off a piece of bark.
See also: blaze, trail

blaze a trail

be the first to do something and so set an example for others to follow.
Blaze in this sense comes ultimately from an Old Norse noun meaning ‘a white mark on a horse's face’. In its literal sense, blazing a trail refers to the practice of making white marks on trees by chipping off bits of their bark, thereby indicating your route to those who are following you.
See also: blaze, trail

hit the road

set out on a journey; depart. informal
A US variant of this expression is hit the trail .
See also: hit, road

trail (or drag) your coat

deliberately provoke a quarrel or fight.
If you trail your coat behind you someone is likely to step on it, either intentionally or unintentionally, so enabling you to pick a fight. This behaviour was traditionally associated with Irishmen at Donnybrook Fair, an annual fair once held in what is now a suburb of Dublin. Charlotte M. Yonge , in the novel Womankind ( 1877 ), alludes to this association: ‘Party spirit is equally ready to give offence and to watch for it. It will trail its coat like the Irishman in the fair.’
1980 James Ditton Copley's Hunch I was trailing my coat…Trying to get the Luftwaffe to come up and fight.
See also: coat, trail

blaze a/the ˈtrail

be the first to do something important or interesting: As the first female Member of Parliament, she blazed a trail for others to follow. ▶ ˈtrailblazer noun a person who is the first to do or discover something and so makes it possible for others to follow: a trailblazer in the field of genetic engineering ˈtrailblazing adj.: trailblazing scientific researchThe original meaning of this expression was to cut marks (=blazes) into trees so that others could follow the path you had taken through a forest, etc.
See also: blaze, trail

hit the ˈroad

(also hit the ˈtrail especially American English ) (informal) begin a journey: Well, we’d better hit the road, we’ve a long way to go.
See also: hit, road

hot on somebody’s/something’s ˈtracks/ˈtrail

(informal) close to catching or finding the person or thing that you have been chasing or searching for: The burglar ran away, with the police hot on his trail.
See also: hot, on, track, trail

trail off

To become gradually fainter; dwindle: The writer's prolific output trailed off as the years went by.
See also: off, trail

hit the road

tv. to leave; to begin to travel on a road. (see also smack the road.) Let’s hit the road. We have a long way to go.
See also: hit, road

hit the trail

tv. to leave. (As if one were riding a horse.) I have to hit the trail before sunset.
See also: hit, trail

hit the road

To set out, as on a trip; leave.
See also: hit, road
References in classic literature ?
As they drew nearer, and I watched the rising and sinking of their forms, and beheld the uplifted right arm bearing above the water the girdle of tappa, and their long dark hair trailing beside them as they swam, I almost fancied they could be nothing else than so many mermaids--and very like mermaids they behaved too.
The lesser animal was trailing something rope-like that left a dark track on the path.
said the lama, smiling, and trailing a loop of it on the grass:
Then Tha gave an order to the trees that hang low, and to the trailing creepers of the Jungle, that they should mark the killer of the buck so that he should know him again, and he said, "Who will now be master of the Jungle People?
Beggars in their rags, and Kings trailing the regal purple in the dust; the Warrior's gleaming helmet; the Priest in his sable robe; the hoary Grandsire, who has run life's circle and come back to childhood; the ruddy School-boy with his golden curls, frisking along the march; the Artisan's stuff jacket; the Noble's star-decorated coat;--the whole presenting a motley spectacle, yet with a dusky grandeur brooding over it.
We steered due West ; but as the trailing of the buoys materially impeded our progress, and we had the balloon abundantly at command, either for ascent or descent, we first threw out fifty pounds of ballast, and then wound up (by means of a windlass) so much of the rope as brought it quite clear of the sea.
Memories of her hot, fluffy biscuits, baked chicken, apple pies and delicious coffee, carried trailing aromas that set his nostrils twitching.