Definition of contrail in US English:



North American
  • A trail of condensed water from an aircraft or rocket at high altitude, seen as a white streak against the sky.

    • ‘The reason, it turns out, is that American airspace was shut down, and no airplanes means no contrails.’
    • ‘Sometimes, when we pass very close to or even fly through contrails left by another jet, we can see the twisting motion caused by the jet exhaust which created them.’
    • ‘We also saw lots of jet contrails in the blue sky above.’
    • ‘Commercial airline pilots later reported the contrail over Florida and later over Indiana.’
    • ‘They speculated that the nuclei of the ice ball could have been lingering jet contrails that then descended through a nearly saturated atmosphere.’
    • ‘Although this complicates global warming arguments, it offers further evidence that contrails do affect climate in some way.’
    • ‘If the aircraft was making a contrail, the pilot was to turn back.’
    • ‘The jets attempted to intercept and identify the source of the contrail, but no visual or confirmed radar contact was made, he added.’
    • ‘A couple years ago, I was fascinated to hear about the possibility that airplane contrails have an effect on the weather.’
    • ‘Higher and farther to the west the contrails of the aircraft bent around the mountains and merged with the clouds, pointing north.’
    • ‘The jet engine contrails have have caused most or all the warming observed in the United States for nearly 20 years.’
    • ‘However, the fact that the volume of air traffic is set to rapidly grow in coming years makes it important to investigate the effects of contrails on our climate.’
    • ‘I suggest it might be possible that fast moving jets generating energy and contrails in an electrically charged atmosphere may be able to form red plasma orbs that were imaged by Nicolas.’
    • ‘There were no vapor trails or contrails coming off the craft either.’
    • ‘The thick, twisting contrails still prevented any visual sightings.’
    • ‘It's hard to make a smoke plume look more threatening than a far-off contrail.’
    • ‘Like other high, thin clouds, contrails reflect sunlight back into space and cool the planet.’
    • ‘There was no smoke or contrails behind the craft, and it made no noise in the perfectly clear sky.’


1940s: abbreviation of condensation trail.