Cover one’s tracks is an idiom that is been in use for many years. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom cover one’s tracks, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
To cover one’s tracks means to conceal evidence, to hide what one has done, to obscure one’s role in an incident or the actions one has taken. The expression cover one’s tracks draws upon the image of someone literally wiping out or covering up tracks one has made in dirt or mud to keep from being followed. The expression cover one’s tracks came into use in the latter-1800s; related phrases are covers one’s tracks, covered one’s tracks, covering one’s tracks.
Donald Trump’s niece is balking at the former president’s claim that she waited too long to file her multimillion-dollar fraud suit against him, saying she would have sued sooner if he hadn’t covered his tracks so well. (Detroit News)
Government contracts include rules about how much workers must be paid, but Deol allegedly shirked those requirements and then covered his tracks with fraudulent documents, prosecutors said. (New York Daily News)
To cover my tracks, I displayed a very sloppy talent at my own package efforts, which displayed a minimum of folding and a maximum of Scotch tape. (Augusta Chronicle)