The white, smoke-like water vapor that follows the path of an airplane is called a contrail. On a clear summer day, you might see several contrails criss-crossing the blue sky.

The next time you see the elongated, cloud-like lines in the sky that linger long after the plane that made them has disappeared, you'll know to call them contrails. They're caused by condensing water vapor from an airplane's exhaust. The word dates from 1945, a shortened version of "condensation trail," and they're sometimes also called "vapor trails."

Definitions of contrail
  1. noun
    an artificial cloud created by an aircraft; caused either by condensation due to the reduction in air pressure above the wing surface or by water vapor in the engine exhaust
    synonyms: condensation trail
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    type of:
    a visible mass of water or ice particles suspended at a considerable altitude
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