Word of the Day



1. a long narrow vehicle that travels along metal tracks in the middle of a street and is used as public transport in some places
2. a cable car that travels up and down a steep hill or mountain

Origin and usage

The word tram likely comes from the Middle Flemish word ‘tram’ meaning ‘handle of a barrow’. It eventually became a common Scottish word, originally used to describe a kind of iron container used in coal mining. Tram first appeared in English around 1500, but it wasn’t until 1826 that the word was used to refer to a kind of train car used to transport passengers.


Tram refers to a kind of vehicle that carries passengers. They are most often found in cities.

Early trams were pulled by horses, but the most common type of tram found today is powered by electricity. Unlike trains, trams don’t have engines. Instead, they collect electricity from a network of overhead cables and wires, and this is what moves the tram along its tracks.

The first electric tram used for public transportation was built in 1880 in the city of Sestroretsk, just outside St Petersburg, Russia. Many other electric tram lines were built in cities and towns all over the world in the years that followed: Berlin, Germany in 1881; Brighton, England and Vienna, Austria in 1883; Toronto, Canada in 1883; Cleveland, Ohio in 1884; and Kyoto, Japan in 1895.


“Every few decades, we have an opportunity to make a drastic change to the way we live our lives. We get a chance to design the building blocks of our daily routines, the infrastructure that will support and accompany us for the years to come – from the trains and trams we ride, the offices we work in, to the energy that powers our homes.”

(Paul Polman)

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

About the author

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary is an award-winning, one-stop reference for English learners and speakers around the world.

Leave a Comment