Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun \ˈprōb\

Simple Definition of probe

  • : a careful examination or investigation of something

  • : a thin, long instrument that is used especially for examining parts of the body

Full Definition of probe

  1. 1 :  a slender medical instrument used especially for exploration (as of a wound or body cavity)

  2. 2 a :  any of various testing devices or substances: as (1) :  a pointed metal tip for making electrical contact with a circuit element being checked (2) :  a usually small object that is inserted into something so as to test conditions at a given point (3) :  a device used to penetrate or send back information especially from outer space or a celestial body (4) :  a device (as an ultrasound generator) or a substance (as radioactively labeled DNA) used to obtain specific information for diagnostic or experimental purposes b :  a pipe on the receiving airplane thrust into the drogue of the delivering airplane in air refueling

  3. 3 a :  the action of probing b :  a penetrating or critical investigation c :  a tentative exploratory advance or survey

Examples of probe

  1. The FBI probe did not produce any new evidence.

  2. <a congressional probe into the accusations>

Origin of probe

Medieval Latin proba examination, from Latin probare

First Known Use: 1580

Other Aeronautics/Aerospace Terms

Rhymes with probe




Simple Definition of probe

  • : to ask a lot of questions in order to find secret or hidden information about someone or something

  • : to touch or reach into (something) by using your finger, a long tool, etc., in order to see or find something

  • : to look into or examine (something) carefully

Full Definition of probe


  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to search into and explore very thoroughly :  subject to a penetrating investigation

  3. 2 :  to examine with a probe <unmanned vehicles probed space>

  4. intransitive verb
  5. :  to make a searching exploratory investigation

prob·er noun

Examples of probe

  1. His questions made it clear he was probing for information.

  2. He didn't like the police probing into his past.

  3. He didn't like the police probing him about his past.

  4. The doctor probed the wound with his finger.

  5. Searchers probed the mud with long poles.

  6. She probed the files for evidence that would help the investigation.


First Known Use of probe


Synonym Discussion of probe

enter, penetrate, pierce, probe mean to make way into something. enter is the most general of these and may imply either going in or forcing a way in <entered the city in triumph>. penetrate carries a strong implication of an impelling force or compelling power that achieves entrance <the enemy penetrated the fortress>. pierce means an entering or cutting through with a sharp pointed instrument <pierced the boil with a lancet>. probe implies penetration to investigate or explore something hidden from sight or knowledge <probed the depths of the sea>.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up probe? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 10, 2016

to put in good humor

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?

duvet pince-nez kittly-benders spindrift
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.