Definition of traffic in US English:



  • 1Vehicles moving on a road or public highway.

    ‘a stream of heavy traffic’
    • ‘The bill will also restrict the powers of telecommunications companies to disrupt traffic flow by opening roads for cable laying.’
    • ‘This follows a number of road traffic accidents in and near the village recently.’
    • ‘Road traffic accidents are far more frequent these days.’
    • ‘Problems range from lost luggage and minor injuries through to road traffic accidents and serious diseases.’
    • ‘Road traffic accidents alone account for an estimated five million head injuries each year.’
    • ‘The unfortunate thing about road traffic accidents is that the situation never stands still.’
    • ‘The usual emergencies such as fires or road traffic accidents will not elicit a response from these vehicles, even with the crews and fire engines on station.’
    • ‘Most referrals have been occupational injuries, but the company wants to extend into road traffic accidents.’
    • ‘There have been several road traffic accidents in recent weeks.’
    • ‘The country's busiest route, the Belfast-Dublin road, claimed another traffic accident victim yesterday.’
    • ‘Road traffic accidents in the city would thus be limited to negligent rear-ending incidents.’
    • ‘On that night we had reports across the city of burglaries, car crime, public order incidents, domestic violence, road traffic accidents.’
    • ‘There is always lots of urge in the mid-range, making the car easy to drive, both in heavy city traffic and on the open road.’
    • ‘It is also being used to determine the cause of serious road traffic accidents.’
    • ‘These figures show that, in general, the effect of heavy vehicles on traffic flow increases with the increase in grade.’
    • ‘The net result of the previous effects would be improved traffic operations and less effect of heavy vehicles on traffic flow.’
    • ‘The accident caused traffic chaos for motorists along Featherstall Road until the seven-tonne truck was removed at around 8am.’
    • ‘Obviously this is an area of greatest risk from fire, but sadly many people are also injured following road traffic accidents and other emergencies.’
    • ‘However, it is not our sole responsibility - everybody has a part to play in reducing road traffic accidents and that includes parents.’
    • ‘The location of speed cameras is based on the collation and evaluation of road traffic accident casualty statistics over a three-year period.’
    vehicles, cars, lorries, trucks
    congestion, traffic jam, jam, tailback, hold-up, bottleneck, gridlock, queue, stoppage, obstruction
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 The movement of other forms of transportation or of pedestrians.
      ‘managing the air traffic was a mammoth task’
      • ‘That is a busy bit of sea with lots of ships and intensive ferry traffic.’
      • ‘On December 14, he dismissed calls to probe all US government air traffic movements through Britain.’
      • ‘The resulting measurements can be used to assess air quality, the impact of air traffic, and even the environmental impact of specific aircraft.’
      • ‘There is a meticulous logging of pedestrian traffic, routines of security personnel, and details of buildings.’
      • ‘There is no central verge, though pedestrian and vehicular traffic are heavy especially during evenings.’
      • ‘They are usually established where there is heavy pedestrian traffic.’
      • ‘Most train traffic was lost to cars rather than to aircraft.’
      • ‘Air traffic control and aircraft control systems, as examples, are of that nature.’
      • ‘He also stated that the lane was inadequate width, thus preventing two-way vehicular traffic and pedestrian movement.’
      • ‘Any major disruption to shipping and air traffic can and will leave us without a supply of food.’
      • ‘Separating motor from pedestrian traffic was more than somewhat retarded.’
      • ‘Pedestrian and vehicular traffic is to utilise only the right lane of the north-bound Henry Street.’
      • ‘The agreement will create new opportunities for the aviation industry and will increase air traffic.’
      • ‘The company expects to almost double its usual mid-week train traffic.’
      • ‘The adolescent males often disregard pedestrian and car traffic, riding after dark and the wrong way on roundabouts.’
      • ‘The bridge to the Island Airport will open the waterfront to heavy daily commercial air traffic.’
      • ‘Pedestrian overbridges and subways provide total segregation of pedestrians and vehicular traffic.’
      • ‘Another chain-link fence on either side of the tracks further restricts pedestrian traffic.’
      • ‘An independent report commission by air traffic controllers said the growth in air traffic poses significant new risks and proposes changes to improve safety.’
      • ‘The refugees apparently were trying to take advantage of decreased holiday train traffic.’
    2. 1.2 The transportation of goods or passengers.
      ‘the increased use of railroads for goods traffic’
      • ‘The airport will not be closed to normal passenger traffic, and it is expected that the receiving area for the casualties will be contained.’
      • ‘The economic boom in the capital is already shifting the balance of passenger traffic.’
      • ‘In the first year, passenger traffic was four times the predicted level.’
      • ‘The action resulted in the halting of all passenger and freight rail traffic nationwide between 03.00 to 09.00.’
      • ‘The strike will affect passenger and freight traffic across the nation.’
      • ‘They also agreed to encourage an increase in railway passenger traffic between Sofia and Thessaloniki.’
      • ‘In a matter of weeks, traffic fell from 40,000 passengers a day to just 5000.’
      • ‘The freight and passenger traffic is greater in the latter part of the week than at the beginning of the week.’
      • ‘The dispute comes at a time when the rail service has seen increasing levels of freight and long-distance passenger traffic.’
      • ‘Goods and passenger traffic to Scotland has increased recently.’
      • ‘After the First World War, passenger numbers declined, as road transport improved but freight traffic remained buoyant.’
      • ‘Air freight traffic grew at a significantly faster rate than passenger traffic during the same period.’
      • ‘He gave evidence of the transfer of passenger and mail traffic to the railway route through Liverpool.’
      • ‘He laughs when he explains all the rail franchises were awarded on the understanding that passenger traffic would contract each year.’
      • ‘All stations would be enormous enough to cope with increased passenger traffic over the next five decades.’
      • ‘The rail network was completely shut down for passengers and freight traffic.’
      • ‘Just three months ago Asian airlines were basking in big turnarounds of their passenger and cargo traffic.’
      • ‘Perhaps Alaska's burgeoning tourist industry will eventually revive the international passenger traffic.’
      • ‘But with the explosion of automobile ownership, rail passenger traffic went into rapid decline.’
      • ‘In the first half of the year, passenger traffic increased by a record high 37 per cent.’
      transport, transportation, movement of goods, movement of people, freight, shipping, conveyancing
      View synonyms
  • 2The messages or signals transmitted through a communications system.

    ‘data traffic between remote workstations’
    • ‘The biggest threats come from malicious virus spreaders who can clog IT systems so effectively all traffic can come to a standstill.’
    • ‘This technology transmits broadband traffic over medium voltage power lines.’
    • ‘You still have to pay for the SMS traffic but the system is elegant.’
    • ‘Without message traffic, the most skilled analysts are helpless.’
    • ‘Just seventy pounds of glass in the form of optical fibers can transmit as much telephone traffic as one ton of copper.’
    • ‘These sites have giant radio antennas that can pick up all traffic handled by communications satellites.’
    • ‘The simple basics of VOIP is that it uses high speed internet lines to carry voice traffic instead of telephone lines.’
    • ‘A network is operated such that message forwarding traffic is shared among routers in a load-sharing set.’
    • ‘A card on your computer receives and then transmits your traffic back to the provider.’
    • ‘This can transmit multimedia traffic using a single laser over a single wavelength of light.’
    • ‘It is estimated that a majority of all email traffic on the Internet is spam.’
    • ‘A technique for tracing the path taken by e-mail, Web traffic and other data.’
    • ‘Computers could be used to route traffic around numerous interconnected systems and if one or several boxes failed, the network would keep on ticking.’
    • ‘Around 80 per cent of all traffic in the Internet is already P2P.’
    • ‘All these services generate huge amount of traffic of SMS messages.’
    • ‘Networks were configured for message traffic with packet sizes of 512 bytes.’
    • ‘They also showed that on-board systems ignored the Bluetooth traffic generated by an infected mobile phone.’
  • 3The action of dealing or trading in something illegal.

    ‘the traffic in stolen cattle’
    • ‘This was all to do with stopping traffic in illegal wood and enforcing the law.’
    • ‘The traffic in human body parts is a grisly business from which most Nigerians will go a long way to keep their distance.’
    • ‘As some say, up to 20% of their revenue is derived from the traffic in illegal sound recordings.’
    • ‘Other government figures said the dispatch of soldiers to the border was to curb contraband traffic in the region.’
    • ‘The traffic in illegal drugs is a global problem, and money-laundering schemes take many forms.’
    • ‘Drug-dealers earn nigh-on incredible sums from the illegal traffic in drugs.’
    • ‘They collaborate in order to deal with various common problems, from the environment to the traffic in illegal drugs.’
    • ‘The traffic in women is largely illegal and undocumented.’
    • ‘They asked to be informed if the prospects of the livestock traffic in 1930 were likely to be such as would justify the reduction in lairage charges.’
    • ‘The second method employed by the Basel Convention is to ensure that states punish illegal traffic as a criminal offence.’
    • ‘And those pressures create a lucrative traffic in illegal workers, filling the war chests of criminals.’
    • ‘It is a first step, but an important one, in stopping the world-wide traffic in stolen antiquities.’
    trade, trading, trafficking, dealing, commerce, business, peddling, buying and selling
    View synonyms
  • 4archaic Dealings or communication between people.

    dealings, association, contact, communication, connection, relations, intercourse
    View synonyms


[no object]
  • Deal or trade in something illegal.

    ‘the government will vigorously pursue individuals who traffic in drugs’
    • ‘Narcotics officers are still keeping a close eye on drug trafficking in and around the city.’
    • ‘‘And we are talking about predominantly women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation,’ he said.’
    • ‘Each year, some 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide, according to the United Nations.’
    • ‘He catches animals and birds, he traffics in legal and illegal products.’
    • ‘How were the terrorists able to rent a safe house and secretly traffic in operatives and material?’
    • ‘Two hundred thousand people are trafficked into this country for sexual labor every day.’
    • ‘And finally, no group trafficked in more illicit liquor than the bootleggers.’
    • ‘He denied knowing that Paul was trafficking in drugs and said he did not know that a drug deal was about to occur that night.’
    • ‘Nevertheless, Cannabis is not the only drug trafficked or abused in Zambia.’
    • ‘There were reports that women are trafficked into the country for prostitution.’
    • ‘The men advertised in English newspapers to hire girls but also used illegally trafficked women with no paperwork or visas.’
    • ‘He used drugs during this period and trafficked in drugs to pay for his habit as well as to provide for his family.’
    • ‘Thailand is a major market for drugs trafficked from neighboring countries, most notably Myanmar.’
    trade, deal, do business, peddle, bargain
    View synonyms


Early 16th century (denoting commercial transportation of merchandise or passengers): from French traffique, Spanish tráfico, or Italian traffico, of unknown origin. Sense 1 dates from the early 19th century.