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

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
Recent Examples on the Web Athletes can ascertain this knowledge through personality, motivation and skill assessments. Shaan Rais, Forbes, 6 May 2022 The regular season left us all as blind men with the elephant, unable to ascertain what was in front of us. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 14 Apr. 2022 Early players couldn't ascertain how those letters might connect to each other (i.e., trying common consonant and vowel combinations). Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, 25 Mar. 2022 Consult legal counsel to try to ascertain if the governing documents violate the statute. Kelly G. Richardson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 19 Mar. 2022 Reuters could not ascertain which types of charges the agency was leaning toward at this stage of the investigation or whether the probe would eventually lead to charges. Reuters, CNN, 20 Feb. 2022 When family went to the Tin Roof on Dec. 21, 2019, to try to ascertain the whereabouts of Houston, they were told the only camera was directed at the cash register in the bar. Carol Robinson |, al, 5 Jan. 2022 The research is an example of a big data approach to paleontology that has yielded intriguing insights into how dinosaurs experienced their world -- something that is often hard to ascertain from studying fossils of individual animals. Katie Hunt, CNN, 23 Mar. 2022 Moore’s campaign filed its own public records request to ascertain who had asked for the file, which is open to inspection under Maryland’s Public Information Act. Washington Post, 6 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ascertain.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2022.

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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.

More from Merriam-Webster on ascertain

Nglish: Translation of ascertain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ascertain for Arabic Speakers


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