1. Law.
    1. the examination before a judicial tribunal of the facts put in issue in a cause, often including issues of law as well as those of fact.
    2. the determination of a person’s guilt or innocence by due process of law.
  2. the act of trying, testing, or putting to the proof.
  3. test; proof.
  4. an attempt or effort to do something.
  5. a tentative or experimental action in order to ascertain results; experiment.
  6. the state or position of a person or thing being tried or tested; probation.
  7. subjection to suffering or grievous experiences; a distressed or painful state: comfort in the hour of trial.
  8. an affliction or trouble.
  9. a trying, distressing, or annoying thing or person.
  10. Ceramics. a piece of ceramic material used to try the heat of a kiln and the progress of the firing of its contents.


  1. of, relating to, or employed in a trial.
  2. done or made by way of trial, proof, or experiment.
  3. used in testing, experimenting, etc.
  4. acting or serving as a sample, experimental specimen, etc.: a trial offer.
  1. on trial,
    1. undergoing examination before a judicial tribunal.
    2. undergoing a probationary or trial period.


  1. a second or new trial, esp of a case that has already been adjudicated upon


    1. the act or an instance of trying or proving; test or experiment
    2. (as modifier)a trial run
  1. law
    1. the judicial examination of the issues in a civil or criminal cause by a competent tribunal and the determination of these issues in accordance with the law of the land
    2. the determination of an accused person’s guilt or innocence after hearing evidence for the prosecution and for the accused and the judicial examination of the issues involved
    3. (as modifier)trial proceedings
  2. an effort or attempt to do somethingwe had three trials at the climb
  3. trouble or grief
  4. an annoying or frustrating person or thing
  5. (often plural) a competition for individualssheepdog trials
  6. a motorcycling competition in which the skills of the riders are tested over rough ground
  7. ceramics a piece of sample material used for testing the heat of a kiln and its effects
  8. on trial
    1. undergoing trial, esp before a court of law
    2. being tested, as before a commitment to purchase

verb trials, trialling or trialled

  1. (tr) to test or make experimental use of (something)the idea has been trialled in several schools

noun grammar

  1. a grammatical number occurring in some languages for words in contexts where exactly three of their referents are described or referred to
  2. (modifier) relating to or inflected for this number

1813, from re- + trial (n.).


mid-15c., “act or process of testing,” from Anglo-French trial, noun formed from triet “to try” (see try). Sense of “examining and deciding a case in a court of law” is first recorded 1570s; extended to any ordeal by 1590s. As an adjectival phrase, trial-and-error is recorded from 1806. Trial balloon (1939) is congnate of French ballon d’essai.

In addition to the idioms beginning with trial

  • trial and error
  • trial balloon
  • trial by fire
  • trials and tribulations

also see:

  • on trial

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