Word of the Day




1. the action of pulling something over a surface, or the type of power used for pulling

2. the ability of wheels to move over a surface without slipping

3. the use of special equipment to hold someone’s body in a particular position

4. the degree to which a new idea, product etc is accepted

Origin and usage

The noun traction comes ultimately from the Latin verb ‘trahere’ meaning to draw or pull. It entered English from a medieval Latin word ‘tractio’ and its use was first recorded in the early 17th century.


A traction engine is a vehicle powered by steam and used for pulling very heavy loads on roads or for agricultural work. They are not often seen these days, having been replaced by vehicles with internal combustion engines, but many examples survive and can be seen in museums and in action at special events. The fourth meaning of traction described above is a metaphorical extension of the literal meanings: when we say that something gets or gains traction, we think of it as gripping people’s attention as a tyre grips the road; if it loses traction, it fails to maintain support and interest and slips out of sight.


“Vision without traction is merely hallucination.”
(Gino Wickman)

Related words

grip, purchase

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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