Definition of traction in US English:



  • 1The action of drawing or pulling something over a surface, especially a road or track.

    ‘a primitive vehicle used in animal traction’
    • ‘Dogs must have improved the yield from hunting, though a variety of other causes of domestication are possible, such as the use of dogs as guards, as a food source, as traction animals.’
    • ‘Lack of fuel and replacement parts has led to the reintroduction of animal traction for agriculture in a retrenchment to a preindustrial past.’
    • ‘To facilitate animal traction, migrants cut down big trees, cleared bamboo bushes, and uprooted stumps.’
    • ‘Loss of animal traction resulted in decreased production intensity, as did loss of labor power through migration, conscription, and death.’
    • ‘Most Romano-British farmsteads were mixed, dependent on animals for manure, traction, dairy products, wool, hides, and meat.’
    • ‘Ploughs are usually drawn along by animal traction (mainly oxen or horses), although people are occasionally used.’
    • ‘Ox-wagon rides were provided on a historic wagon pulled by a team of Nguni oxen from the University of Fort Hare's animal traction unit.’
    1. 1.1 Motive power provided for movement, especially on a railroad.
      ‘the changeover to diesel and electric traction’
      • ‘Swiss railways played an important role in the development of electric traction.’
      • ‘He now focuses on designing traction kites which can pull a board, a craft or a vehicle.’
      • ‘Why were valuable time and money spent in attempts to adapt the unadaptable old horse car lines to the new condition of electric traction?’
      • ‘With electric traction, it would also be a clean solution to our transport needs - unlike the airlines.’
      • ‘Electric traction gave rise to increases in flexibility, speed and capacity, and resulted in cheaper fares.’
      • ‘It made little difference whether the rolling stock in question was for high or low-speed operation or whether it was made use of diesel or electric traction.’
      • ‘Electric traction was commercially applied first on suburban and metropolitan lines, but was quickly adopted for underground railways.’
      • ‘Great Britain was slow in adopting electric traction.’
      • ‘The demonstration of an electric railway at Berlin by Siemens in 1879 opened the way to a transport revolution based on electric traction.’
      • ‘Pictures, diagrams, tables and models are used to explain the evolution of engines from steam through diesel to electric traction.’
      • ‘Mourning in anticipation, 71 railway enthusiasts took steam's eclipse by diesel and electric traction to be history's greatest betrayal.’
      • ‘To Cleveland's credit, it did recognise the superiority of electric traction over other systems and electrified rather swiftly once an effective system had been developed.’
      • ‘With electric traction we could bring the time down to 30-35 minutes, which would be reasonable for 46 miles.’
      • ‘The principles of electric traction are simple.’
      • ‘We must practise energy conservation comprehensively and switch over to electricity-based traction for railways and urban transportation.’
      • ‘In most of the country the distinction between electric and other traction would not be important, but in the mid-Atlantic states it was.’
      • ‘These charges include electric traction current and station-leasing charges.’
      • ‘During his naval service he twice met and worked with Moses Farmer, who had been experimenting with electric traction since 1847.’
      • ‘Once this is commissioned, electric traction will be available from Delhi-Chennai-Jolarpet stretch to the State capital.’
    2. 1.2 Locomotives collectively.
      • ‘It's pulled by a diesel engine today but there is a strong movement to reintroduce steam traction.’
      • ‘Colin, a retired traction and rolling stock engineer, and his wife aim to complete more than 30,000 miles of their epic odyssey by train.’
      • ‘The interactive museum would have featured all elements of steam technology from steam boats to steam traction and trains.’
  • 2The grip of a tire on a road or a wheel on a rail.

    ‘his car hit a patch of ice and lost traction’
    • ‘They may offer more traction in wintry weather, but can reduce traction of dry roads.’
    • ‘Each intense laser pulse can produce a series of minute explosions that blow the leaf residue off the rails, resulting in a clean track and restoring traction to passing trains.’
    • ‘They can easily come off the slippery surface, get traction on a dry piece of road, and just fire off into the crowd, or a lamp post, or anything else, at the drop of a hat.’
    • ‘The gravel that makes up the concrete is exposed to the surface and good for traction.’
    • ‘This produces low pressure air under the car which sucks it on to the road, increasing traction.’
    • ‘Alloy wheels, traction control and a cassette player come as standard.’
    • ‘I've heard mixed feedback regarding the use of a mild acid wash to roughen up or etch the surface and create more traction.’
    • ‘You have no electronic driver aids, no traction control and no antilock brakes.’
    • ‘Then, she was to immediately back out and up onto the rim so that she and the engineering team could look at her tracks and check her traction.’
    • ‘The road had been recently rocked and his tires had little traction on the bumpy surface.’
    • ‘You won't have the same traction anymore on any surface, and especially not on the linoleum.’
    • ‘Slicks have no tread and are used for best traction on a dry track.’
    • ‘On a simple two-wheel drive car, traction control selects the wheel with the most grip in a loss-of-grip situation and gives it more power.’
    • ‘To improve traction of vehicles, the roadway face has longitudinal extruded and transverse press - formed depressions.’
    • ‘For example, we may produce systems that alter the combustion properties of fuels, the viscosity of lubricants, or the ability of vehicles to gain traction.’
    • ‘Tracks also improve traction on hard, slick surfaces and enable the machine to run across open trenches.’
    • ‘Most drivers travel at the posted limit in dry weather, but need to allow for slippery roads, reduced vision and lower traction in wet weather.’
    • ‘On the safety front there are six air bags, stability and traction control, and ABS braking with brake assists and brake force distribution.’
    • ‘Also standard are dual-stage driver and front-passenger airbags and traction control.’
    • ‘The exception is emergency vehicles that disperse sand to give icy roads traction.’
    grip, friction, adhesion, purchase, resistance
    View synonyms
  • 3The extent to which a product, idea, etc., gains popularity or acceptance.

    ‘analysts predicted that the technology would rapidly gain traction in the corporate market’
    ‘if a film got a little traction, a wider release could be negotiated’
    • ‘But he did not get traction last year in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression.’
    • ‘Internet protocol (IP) based storage has gained significant traction over the course of the past year.’
    • ‘But the former congressman, ambassador and cabinet member couldn't get any traction.’
    • ‘The group had trouble gaining traction, no matter how outrageous they acted.’
    • ‘Lawsuits that would have had no traction years ago now survive and sometimes result in impressive settlements.’
    • ‘In the meantime, greater control over the regions has meant the company is seeing a lift in sales in the Northeast and more traction in the West.’
    • ‘The informal network is where ideas in their infancy can be formulated, adapted and gain traction before presented.’
    • ‘Until we figure out whether the product has traction, there's no rush to execute the revenue plan. "’
    • ‘The hypervisor technology also puts a layer between a physical server and server operating systems and has gained traction with the hardware makers.’
    • ‘The democratic presidential hopeful is losing some traction to Barack Obama in some key polls.’
    • ‘Not only are they not gaining traction, they are less effective with each manufactured event.’
    • ‘Barack Obama clearly sensing that his political opponents here are trying to gain some traction some political traction by this story.’
    • ‘Not only are introductions in order, you should also give the fresh acquaintances a little traction to get their friendship rolling merrily along.’
    • ‘It's much harder to get traction with editors, let alone readers, to tell that story.’
    • ‘The advocates of disengagement have yet to gain traction.’
    • ‘His approach has started to gain traction in Europe.’
    • ‘At first the deal got plenty of criticism, from environmentalists and pro-business conservatives alike, and little traction on Capitol Hill.’
    • ‘Even if record labels embrace the toolkit and create millions of discs with Microsoft DRM-protected content, there's no guarantee Windows Media formats would gain any traction with consumers.’
    • ‘Hopefully, Manfred's attempt to divert attention from illegal anabolic steroids to perfectly safe over-the-counter supplements won't gain traction.’
    • ‘It doesn't seem to be getting much traction among fellow Democrats and Republicans are expected to vote and block a vote on resolutions.’
  • 4Medicine
    The application of a sustained pull on a limb or muscle, especially in order to maintain the position of a fractured bone or to correct a deformity.

    ‘his leg is in traction’
    • ‘‘When I wake up at home, I feel like I need to put my back in traction just to get ready to play,’ he says.’
    • ‘Being wise, he knew that I would slip and fall on the ice, that I would break my leg and be laid up in traction for two days.’
    • ‘For the first time, I noticed my legs were in traction.’
    • ‘You just know this one is going to end up with someone going to intensive care in traction.’
    • ‘I remember the hours before surgery, my leg in traction and feeling the shattered pieces shifting in my leg.’
    • ‘The new Hodgen splint held a limb in traction while a wound was dressed, a critical innovation on the battlefield.’
    • ‘Femoral fractures in children have traditionally been treated with traction and hospital stays of 4-12 weeks depending on the child's age.’
    • ‘He had a white sheet over him, and then he pulled on one of his legs, and it was in traction.’
    • ‘Dancers now jump higher, pirouette more times - more than the naked eye can count - and spend hours in traction to stretch their limbs and torsos a centimetre or two more.’
    • ‘In the accident and emergency department, the broken leg should be rested in the position of comfort and traction should not be used.’
    • ‘The procedure still requires a major surgery to insert the pins and rods to hold the bones in traction.’
    • ‘Serious, permanent complications from this procedure are rare but can be minimized by limiting the amount of time that the patient is in traction.’
    • ‘The people who make the decisions are not concerned about the poor patients with fractured legs and hips who are on traction and unable to walk.’
    • ‘Displaced fractures are reduced by traction with local pressure over the prominent proximal end of the distal metacarpal fracture.’
    • ‘When the old man arrived back in Burnaby he had to wait two days, in traction and on morphine, for surgery on his leg.’


Late Middle English (denoting contraction, such as that of a muscle): from French, or from medieval Latin tractio(n-), from Latin trahere ‘draw, pull’. Current senses date from the early 19th century.