Trap vs entrap

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Trap and entrap are two words that are often confused. We will examine the meanings of the word trap and entrap, where the terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

To trap means to snare an animal in a device, to confine someone in a place with no means of escape or to trick someone into a certain action. The word trap may also be used as a noun, to mean a device used to enclose or snare an animal, a container used to collect something or a trick by which someone is led into a certain action. A trap may also refer to a surprise attack. Related words are traps, trapped, trapping, trapper. The word trap is derived from the Old English words  træppe and treppe, which mean a snare.

To entrap may mean to snare an animal in a device or confine someone in a place with no means of escape. In this sense the words trap and entrap are interchangeable. However, the word entrap is most often used to mean to trick someone into committing a crime that the person would not have otherwise committed. This meaning of entrap has evolved into everyday use to mean to unfairly manipulate someone into an action. Trap carries no moral implication, but entrap may carry the nuance of trapping someone in an unfair and underhanded way. The word entrap is derived the Old French word entraper which means to snare in a trap, related words are entraps, entrapped, entrapping. The noun form is entrapment.


A Cobb County caterer failed a recent inspection by the health department in part due to a dead rat in a glue trap and rodent feces in the facility. (The Atlantic Journal Constitution)

Disabled pensioners have been trapped in 13-storey flats in Ayr for over a week since their lift broke down. (The Scottish Daily Record)

The crackdown has been fueled by social media, where images of the flag-waving were widely shared, and by dating apps and other websites, which the Egyptian police have used to entrap people suspected of being gay and transgender, activists and officials say. (The New York Times)