Simple Definition of detain
: to officially prevent (someone) from leaving a place : to hold or keep (someone) in a prison or some other place
: to keep or prevent (someone) from leaving or arriving at the expected time
Examples of detain in a sentence
They were detained by the police for questioning.
He claimed he had been illegally detained.
Unexpected business had detained her.
Origin of detain
Middle English deteynen, from Anglo-French deteign-, stem of detenir, modification of Latin detinēre, from de- + tenēre to hold — more at thin
First Known Use: 15th century
Synonym Discussion of detain
keep, retain, detain, withhold, reserve mean to hold in one's possession or under one's control. keep may suggest a holding securely in one's possession, custody, or control <keep this while I'm gone>. retain implies continued keeping, especially against threatened seizure or forced loss <managed to retain their dignity even in poverty>. detain suggests a delay in letting go <detained them for questioning>. withhold implies restraint in letting go or a refusal to let go <withheld information from the authorities>. reserve suggests a keeping in store for future use <reserve some of your energy for the last mile>.
delay, retard, slow, slacken, detain mean to cause to be late or behind in movement or progress. delay implies a holding back, usually by interference, from completion or arrival <bad weather delayed our arrival>. retard suggests reduction of speed without actual stopping <language barriers retarded their progress>. slow and slacken also imply a reduction of speed, slow often suggesting deliberate intention <medication slowed the patient's heart rate>, slacken an easing up or relaxing of power or effort <on hot days runners slacken their pace>. detain implies a holding back beyond a reasonable or appointed time <unexpected business had detained her>.
delay, procrastinate, lag, loiter, dawdle, dally mean to move or act slowly so as to fall behind. delay usually implies a putting off (as a beginning or departure) <we cannot delay any longer>. procrastinate implies blameworthy delay especially through laziness or apathy <procrastinates about making decisions>. lag implies failure to maintain a speed set by others <lagging behind in technology>. loiter and dawdle imply delay while in progress, especially in walking, but dawdle more clearly suggests an aimless wasting of time <loitered at several store windows> <children dawdling on their way home from school>. dally suggests delay through trifling or vacillation when promptness is necessary <stop dallying and get to work>.
DETAIN Defined for Kids
Legal Definition of detain
1 : to hold or keep in custody or possession <property wrongfully detained> <a juvenile detained in a care facility>
2 : to restrain from proceeding <detained the driver and asked to see his license>
Seen and Heard
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