What's the name for this ... chase? stria? groove?

In Czech, we call it "stopa" - which literally translates as "footprint" but has a lot of other meanings as well so I can't really work out which of the tons of the English translations I should use here. Trail? Trace? Vestige?

stopa kol

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    Are you looking for something describe the pattern caused by a single vehicle, or the deep grooves caused by many vehicles? For the first, "tyre tracks" as already given is great. For the second I would lean more towards "ruts".
    – AndyT
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 15:15
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    You can go with just tracks, but that doesn't have to be from a car, nor does it have to be in the mud, so you can only use that when those are clear from the context. If not, you'll have to add more to it to specify these factors (if they are relevant).
    – Jasper
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 11:39
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    EVIDENCE!!!!!!! Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 22:14
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    @AndyT He's referring to the word stopa, which, as he says, means footprint. So I am sure he means the tire print/track mark/tread pattern. Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 7:37

6 Answers 6


It's mostly called a "tyre tread/track mark" or a "tyre tread pattern", also a "tyre track" and a "tyre print", for instance: tyre tread pattern in mud, tyre track mark in mud or tyre print in mud

In British English it's "tyre", and it's "tire" in American English.

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    At least in my personal experience (British English native) you are fine just saying "tread mark," most people will understand you are talking about the ruts left by tires.
    – minseong
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 20:03
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    Tyre marks, tread marks, and ruts are three completely different things. A rut may or may not be caused by a tyre, and a tread mark may or may not be visible inside a tyre rut. While these are all commonly used interchangeably, and in common speech will generally be understood correctly, they are still distinct from one another, and this is a distinction that is important to make on ELL. See my answer below (ell.stackexchange.com/a/126379/36596) for more details.
    – flith
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 7:10

In AmE, they would be called "tire tracks". Possibly also "tread marks" but that would more likely be used for marks left on a hard surface like concrete or pavement.

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    This is a really good answer. I think the best.
    – minseong
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 20:26
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    In the southern USA, it would just be "tracks" although anybody would understand what "tire tracks" were. "Tread marks" are where the tread of your tire is left on a surface. Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 21:35

The phrase you are looking for (in BrE at least) is tread marks. They can also be called tyre tracks.

These are not specific to tread patterns left in mud, but can also be used if a vehicle leaves rubber tyre marks on a hard road.

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    Oh, so "tyre" is an adjective in the phrase, thanks
    – Probably
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 12:07
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    tyre is a noun Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 12:09
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    (I think) tyre tracks would be a compound noun made up of two nouns.
    – SteveES
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 12:11
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    "Tire tracks" is also good in the US (spelled tire). I've only heard tread marks used for rubber marks on pavement, though.
    – Karen
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 13:22
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    We use 'skid marks' for rubber left on hard surfaces Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 7:44

As a non-native English speaker the first thing that came to mind is (mud) ruts.

Rut [ruht] (noun)

  • a furrow or track in the ground, especially one made by the passage of a vehicle or vehicles.

Ruts aren't necessarily limited to tyre treads or mud (i.e. ski tracks in the snow would work too), but as far as I'm aware they generally do refer to tracks made by vehicles.

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    This is more for the marks left by many vehicles than one vehicle. That may be what OP wants; just clarifying.
    – Kat
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 15:49
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    A rut can be left by one vehicle if, for example, it were stuck in the mud and had to be rocked back and forth to get out -- I've left ruts in snow by myself plenty of times, trying to get out of my parking space!
    – Doktor J
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 15:54
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    Perhaps a defining difference between a rut and tire/tread tracks/marks/etc is that a rut is more likely a deep furrow, and may not necessarily have an imprint of the tread in it due to skidding and slippage, while a mark or track will more likely have a tread imprint, and might be very shallow, just barely showing the tread pattern itself, let alone having any "walls" built up along the outsides of the tire path.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 15:56
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    As a native BrEng speaker, I would agree with you. It does depend on whether the OP mean the grooves in the earth (in which case "rut"), or the details of the tread pattern in the mud (in which case "tyre/tire tracks"). Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 6:52
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    To my (English) eyes, the OP's picture shows ruts. Some of them happen to have tread marks (or similar phrases from other answers) in them. The question title fits better with tread marks
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 11:18

I'm repeating other the content of other answers, but only because I want to clarify that they are not necessarily correct, depending on exactly what you're referring to and how specific you want to be:

A fairly broad answer

tread marks

The tread of a tyre is the rubber on its circumference that makes contact with the road or the ground - the black bit. You also have a tread on your shoe. Tread marks (also commonly known as skid marks, as they are most often caused when vehicles brake hard and skid) are generally the black marks left on the road or elsewhere by tyres (this is the same reason why you're requested not to use black-soled shoes in an indoor gym, so you don't leave tread marks on the gym floor). While it is true that the imprints of the tread are visible in the mud, these aren't tread marks in a strict sense.

Tread marks on road surface

Example images of tread marks on a road surface, probably skid marks.

A very broad answer


A rut is a a long deep track made by the repeated passage of something - most often made by the wheels of vehicles, but can also be made by water flowing downhill, by animals following a game trail, and so on. It is not specific to vehicle wheels.

Vehicle ruts in mud

Example image of vehicle ruts in mud - note that tread marks are sometimes, but not always, visible inside the ruts.

Probably the least ambiguous answer

tyre tracks (US: tire tracks)

To answer the OP's question, the patterns left in mud specifically by vehicles would be called tyre tracks, which is a fairly literal definition. Although we can distinguish the tread of a tyre from the tyre as a whole, it's a much finer point of semantics as to which made the track in the mud (you could just as well call them wheel tracks or vehicle tracks, but these phrases are not commonly used and are less accurate).

Tyre tracks in mud

Example image of tyre tracks in mud.

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    First you say tread marks is incorrect then you say it's correct, decide already! A rut is a possible word, depending on the OP's request. Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 7:16
  • Skid marks are left only when the vehicle skids. Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 7:18
  • I got caught between drafts. Edited for clarity. Feel free to downvote if it's still crap :)
    – flith
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 7:55
  • The tread of a tyre is the rubber on its circumference that makes contact with the road or the ground. That is only the first sentence of the second part of the third entry for tread as a noun. You are purposely omitting the second sentence: the pattern of ridges or grooves made or cut in the face of a tire, as well as the first entry which specifically includes imprint of a tyre as the meaning, as well as all the uses of tread as a verb which roughly means to make a path. Tread marks is not synonym to skid marks.
    – walen
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 7:57
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    The answer is good, I can't see a reason for a down-vote. Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 7:59

The word "track" is the closest literally to stopa -- they both can also mean to follow (as if by following footprints or hoofprints), and both have the secondary sense of a section of music (probably the Czech word is a calque).

As for "rut", that has the meaning closest to the marks showing in your picture, but its secondary meaning, "a fixed routine" especially one you would like to break out of, has grown to overshadow the original use. Also, there is the fairly rare sense of "to copulate".

So... maybe "tire track".

  • "Rut" often refers to a deliberately cut track in the dirt for guiding wheels; a a crude predecessor to the steel rail. That's the source of the metaphor for being "stuck in a rut": like a wheel taking a predetermined path, not able to turn.
    – Kaz
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 0:30

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