Trajectories are for ballistics

The path taken when an unpowered object is thrown, resulting from the physics of gravity. It can be extended metaphorically to other upward progressions (such as a career), but shouldn’t be used as a generic, high-falutin’ synonym for a route or pathway.

Many other languages have a similar word with a similar meaning to the Dutch traject (pretty much any route or non-physical pathway) and as a result it’s a common Eurospeak term. In English, you should stick to alternatives such as route, path or pathway.

  • a bus or train can’t have a trajectory, unless it’s fallen off a bridge
  • a patient can’t have a trajectory through the healthcare system
  • a computer package can’t have a development trajectory

It’s got the same root as Utrecht and Maastricht, by the way: trajectum or river crossing – supposedly originally a spot where you could throw a spear across.

Prevalence: moderate. The Dutch word traject is quite a popular buzzword.
Frequency: high. Dutch writers will rarely put anything other than trajectory for traject.
Native: sometimes. It sounds nice, doesn’t it? The Eurospeak use is gaining currency.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

2 thoughts on “Trajectories are for ballistics

  1. I giggled at “unless it’s fallen off a bridge” this morning. Enjoying your posts, Mike. Very useful reminders even for us into-EN translators. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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