HomeCornucopia • Word Formation 3abstract • attract • contract • detract • distract • extract • intractable • portray • protract • retract • subtract • trace • trail • train • treachery • trick


  • hat-trick, one-trick, trickery, trick-or-treating, trickster, trick(s)y
  • treacherous, treachery
  • entreat(y), ill-treat(ment), maltreat(ment), mistreat(ment), retreat, treatable, treatise, treatment, treaty, untreated
  • abstract(ed(ly)), abstraction(ism), abstractionist, abstractly
  • attract(ant), attraction, attractive(ness), attractively, counterattraction, unattractive(ly)
  • contract(ile), contraction, contractor, contractual(ly), line-of-contract, subcontract(ing), subcontractor, work-to-contract
  • detract(or)
  • distract(ed(ly)), distracting, distraction, distractor
  • extract(ion), extractive, extractor
  • intractability, intractable, intractably
  • protract(ed), protractor
  • retract(able), retraction
  • subtract(ion)
  • tractability, tractable, tract(ion), tractor(-trailer)
  • portrait(ist), portraiture, portray(al), self-portrait
  • entrails, firetrail, (semi-)trailer, trailblazer, trailblazing, trailing, trait, trawl(er)
  • (re)trace, traceable, tracer(y), tracing;
  • cross-trainer, cross-training, detrain, house-trained, overtrain, potty-train(ed), potty-training, (re)train(ing), teacher-training, toilet-train(ed), toilet-training, trainee, trainer, trainman, trainspotter, trainspotting, train-wreck, untrained



Late Middle English (as a noun): from an Old French dialect variant of triche, from trichier ‘deceive’, of unknown origin. Current senses of the verb date from the mid 16th century. A medieval word from Old French trichier ‘to deceive or cheat’, which also gave us treachery (Middle English). A 16th century sense of the word was ‘habit’, which is where the expression up to your old tricks comes from. Children say trick or treat at Halloween when they call at houses, threatening to play a trick on the householder unless a treat is produced in the form of sweets or money. The phrase did not appear until the 1930s in the USA.


Three successes of the same kind within a limited period, in particular (in soccer) the scoring of three goals in a game by one player or (in cricket) the taking of three wickets by the same bowler with successive balls. Late 19th century: originally referring to the club presentation of a new hat (or some equivalent) to a bowler taking three wickets successively.


Middle English (in the senses ‘negotiate’ and ‘discuss a subject’): from Old French traitier, from Latin tractare ‘handle’, frequentative of trahere ‘draw, pull’. The current noun sense dates from the mid 17th century. Treat is first recorded with the meanings ‘negotiate’ and ‘discuss (a subject)’. It is from Old French traitier, from Latin tractare ‘handle’. The sense ‘event that gives great pleasure’ dates from the mid 17th century, developing via the senses ‘treatment of guests’ and the entertainment you put on for them. Late Middle English treatise is also from Old French traitier, while treaty (Late Middle English), and tract (Late Middle English) are related.


Middle English: from Latin abstractus, literally ‘drawn away’, past participle of abstrahere, from ab- ‘from’ + trahere ‘draw off’. The Latin source of abstract, meant literally ‘drawn away’ and is from abstrahere, from the elements ab– ‘from’ and trahere ‘draw off’. The use in art dates from the mid 19th century. Trahere is found in many English words including: attract (Late Middle English) with ad ‘to’; portrait (mid 16th century), something drawn; protract (mid 16th century) with pro ‘out’; retract (Late Middle English) and retreat (Late Middle English) both drawing back; and words listed at train.


Middle English (as a noun in the sense ‘delay’): from Old French train (masculine), traine (feminine), from trahiner (verb), from Latin trahere ‘pull, draw’. Early noun senses were ‘trailing part of a robe’ and ‘retinue’; the latter gave rise to ‘line of travelling people or vehicles’, later ‘a connected series of things’. The early verb sense ’cause a plant to grow in a desired shape’ was the basis of the sense ‘instruct’. Before railways were invented in the early 19th century, train followed a different track. Early senses included ‘a trailing part of a robe’ and ‘a retinue’, which gave rise to ‘a line of travelling people or vehicles’, and later ‘a connected series of things’, as in train of thought. To train could mean ‘to cause a plant to grow in a desired shape’, which was the basis of the sense ‘to instruct’. The word is from Latin trahere ‘to pull, draw’, and so is related to word such as trace (Middle English) originally a path someone is drawn along, trail (Middle English) originally in the sense ‘to tow’, tractor (late 18th century) ‘something that pulls’, contract (Middle English) ‘draw together’, and extract (Late Middle English) ‘draw out’. Boys in particular have practised the hobby of trainspotting under that name since the late 1950s. Others ridicule this hobby and in Britain in the 1980s trainspotter, like anorak, became a derogatory term for an obsessive follower of any minority interest. Irvine Welsh’s 1993 novel Trainspotting gave a high profile to the term. The title refers to an episode in which two heroin addicts go to a disused railway station in Edinburgh and meet an old drunk in a disused railway station who asks them if they are trainspotting. There are also other overtones from the language of drugs—track is an addicts’ term for a vein, mainlining [1930s] for injecting a drug intravenously, and train for a drug dealer. Trainers were originally training shoes, soft shoes without spikes or studs worn by athletes or sports players for training rather than the sport itself. The short form began to replace the longer one in the late 1970s.


Middle English: from Old French entrailles, from medieval Latin intralia, alteration of Latin interanea ‘internal things’, based on inter ‘among’. The root meaning of entrails is ‘insides’. It is from Old French entrailles, from medieval Latin intralia, an alteration of Latin interanea ‘internal things’, based on inter ‘among’.


All authors must admit to a dependence on the work of others. We are no exception. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the publications and reference sources that we have consulted and adapted for educational purposes. It would also have been quite impossible to have produced the material on this website without adapting a variety of authentic resources that we have regularly referred to. While every effort has been made, it has not always been possible to identify and cite the sources of all the material used or to trace all copyright holders. We will be happy to omit any contents or include any appropriate acknowledgements when they are brought to our notice.

Your Feedback