cover one’s tracks

cover one’s tracks

Meaning

  • to keep one’s location, activities, and intentions hidden.
  • to conceal previous movement indicators.
  • to conceal one’s involvement, usually in a dubious way.
  • to destroy evidence of presence.

 Example Sentences

  1. The burglars were very meticulous in covering their tracks, making it difficult for law enforcement to catch them.
  2. Corrupt officials go to great lengths to cover their tracks so as not to tarnish their reputations.
  3. When primitive camping, it’s a bad idea to cover one’s tracks. If you get lost, you’ll want there to be signs of your presence.
  4. The purpose of using a proxy or virtual private network (VPN) is to cover one’s tracks online in real-time.
  5. The murderer covered his tracks by throwing the shotgun in the lake and burying his landlord’s body.

Origin

In a literal sense, “track” was first used in the late 15th century to describe footprints or marks left by a moving object or being. Though the term has developed more uses throughout time, the original meaning is still used today.

To cover one’s tracks, in a figurative sense, can be traced back to the 1870s. At a time when most roadways were still dirt and crime was modernizing, it was essential for lawbreakers and outlaws to hide their movements so as not to be caught by authorities. 

The exact origin of the idiom is unknown, which also makes it homological. (To “cover one’s tracks” covered its tracks.)

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