as·​cer·​tain | \ ˌa-sər-ˈtān How to pronounce ascertain (audio) \
ascertained; ascertaining; ascertains

Definition of ascertain

transitive verb

1 : to find out or learn with certainty ascertain the truth trying to ascertain the cause of the fire information that can be easily ascertained on the Internet
2 archaic : to make certain, exact, or precise

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Other Words from ascertain

ascertainable \ ˌa-​sər-​ˈtā-​nə-​bəl How to pronounce ascertain (audio) \ adjective
ascertainment \ ˌa-​sər-​ˈtān-​mənt How to pronounce ascertain (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for ascertain

discover, ascertain, determine, unearth, learn mean to find out what one did not previously know. discover may apply to something requiring exploration or investigation or to a chance encounter. discovered the source of the river ascertain implies effort to find the facts or the truth proceeding from awareness of ignorance or uncertainty. attempts to ascertain the population of the region determine emphasizes the intent to establish the facts definitely or precisely. unable to determine the origin of the word unearth implies bringing to light something forgotten or hidden. unearth old records learn may imply acquiring knowledge with little effort or conscious intention (as by simply being told) or it may imply study and practice. I learned her name only today learning Greek

Examples of ascertain in a Sentence

We look at digital media—images, audio and video—and we try to ascertain whether or not they've been manipulated. We use mathematical and computational techniques to detect alterations in them. — Claudia Dreifus, New York Times, 2 Oct. 2007 Currently, an official trying to ascertain road damage in the aftermath of an earthquake might have to keep one eye on the TV news while listening to both radio traffic reports and the police scanner. Since most of these data are available in digital form, the software could take them all in, process them and present a report outlining the best evacuation routes. — Kevin Hogan, Technology Review, April 2002 With an equation linking the money wage to prices, the degree of inflation could be ascertained. — Sidney Weintraub, Modern Economic Thought, (1977) 1993
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Recent Examples on the Web On the intranet site, incorporate gamification and interactive methods such as rewards, surveys and playables to ascertain feedback. Expert Panel®, Forbes, "10 Ways To Collect Team Feedback On Internal-Facing Tech," 4 Mar. 2021 Whether such methods are reliably effective is difficult to ascertain, and, practitioners acknowledge, there is little research on outcomes. Michael Schulson/undark, Popular Science, "Can you ‘deprogram’ people who join cults?," 4 Mar. 2021 More needs to be done to ascertain the intent and the actions of the ship throughout its travels. Ariel Cohen, Forbes, "Iran Accused Of Eco-Terrorism: Purposefully Dumping Oil In Israeli Waters," 4 Mar. 2021 The difficult thing to ascertain about Nick as a character, though, is how much his actions here are inspired by true sincerity and how much by his lingering feelings for Lindsay. Roxana Hadadi, Vulture, "Freaks and Geeks Delivers Its Best Worst Cringe Moment," 2 Mar. 2021 This lingering uncertainty, according to Davies, stemmed from his own inability to ascertain the fates of some of his own friends — many of whom went home amid the epidemic and never returned. NBC News, "Creator of HIV drama 'It's a Sin' on opening old wounds, prioritizing gay actors," 2 Mar. 2021 Zimbabwe’s health minister Constantino Chiwenga has advocated for medical facilities to ascertain the efficacy of traditional medicine and herbs to combat the novel coronavirus. Farai Shawn Matiashe, Quartz, "Covid-19 vaccines face a trust gap against some traditional African remedies," 1 Mar. 2021 But the exact number of practicing Catholics remains difficult to ascertain, due to France’s strict limits on collecting ethnic or religious data. Washington Post, "Catholic clergy in France abused more than 10,000 child victims, independent commission estimates," 2 Mar. 2021 Nationally, estimates of the transgender population, while inherently difficult to ascertain, converge at around a half-percent. Ben Harris,, "Transgender Jews are finding a safe haven in an unexpected place: the farm," 24 Feb. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ascertain.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ascertain

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for ascertain

Middle English acertainen to inform, give assurance to, from Anglo-French acerteiner, from a- (from Latin ad-) + certein, certain certain

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Time Traveler for ascertain

Time Traveler

The first known use of ascertain was in the 15th century

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Statistics for ascertain

Last Updated

10 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ascertain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for ascertain


as·​cer·​tain | \ ˌa-sər-ˈtān How to pronounce ascertain (audio) \
ascertained; ascertaining

Kids Definition of ascertain

: to find out with certainty Police tried to ascertain the cause of the accident.

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Comments on ascertain

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