Trackable vs. Traceable

Today’s tip comes from Ted, a member of the Peanut Gallery in Oman.

I came across one bad example today which drew my attention between the use of the words “trackable” and “traceable.”

Trackable, as in: “The wounded animal was trackable because he left a trail of blood behind.”
This was used in the context of:  “To be able to be hunted down until captured.”

The word “traceable” could be used in such a sentence as: “A small amount of heroin was traceable in the drug addict’s bloodstream.”
This was used in the context of a small amount of a substance was detectable within another substance.
Also, one’s family history is “traceable” back through time due to good record keeping.

I hope this gives you food for thought and a potential future topic.
I also note that the word “Trackable” gets underlined in red as a spelling mistake by Microsoft Office Spell Checker.

Ted said this was all off the top of his head.
(Hey, that rhymes!)
So of course I had to go look it up.

According to
Traceable – (usually followed by “to”) able to be traced to; synonym of attributable
Example: a failure traceable to corrosion
Traceable – capable of being traced or tracked; synonym of trackable
Example: a traceable riverbed

So it would appear that the two words might be interchangeable. However, in the package delivery industry, “track and trace” are used as two separate ideas. Tracking means determining the current location, and tracing means determining past locations of an item being delivered, generally using barcodes or RFID technology. Thus, tracing means following the footsteps or a continuous line of something with the goal of finding the route (the journey), whereas tracking means finding a spot here and there where intermittent tracks have been left with the goal of finding the item or animal (the destination).

And these definitions seem to work with Ted’s top-of-head ones.

Funny Traceable Quote of the Day:

“The really good idea is always traceable back quite a long way, often to a not very good idea, which sparked off another idea that was only slightly better, which somebody else misunderstood in such a way that they then said something which was really rather interesting.”
– John Cleese, English comedian and actor, b. 1939


2 Responses to “Trackable vs. Traceable”

  1. Sue Says:

    Thanks for your insight and assistance.
    SG Ottawa Canada

  2. Shaun Says:

    Thank you!I thought I was the only one with that concern,it was strange for me to hear someone use the word trackable in reference to credit card activity.

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