detain

verb
de·​tain | \ di-ˈtān How to pronounce detain (audio) , dē- \
detained; detaining; detains

Definition of detain

transitive verb

1 : to hold or keep in or as if in custody detained by the police for questioning
2 obsolete : to keep back (something due) : withhold
3 : to restrain especially from proceeding was detained by a flat tire

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Other Words from detain

detainment \ di-​ˈtān-​mənt How to pronounce detain (audio) , dē-​ \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web Officers eventually tried to detain him and a fight broke out. Paul Best, Fox News, 7 July 2021 The three men were accused of chasing after Mr. Arbery in their trucks in an attempt to detain him against his will. New York Times, 28 Apr. 2021 Another shopper followed the suspect into the parking lot and, with the help of officers, was able to detain him. Lawrence Richard, Washington Examiner, 18 Apr. 2021 Once found, authorities said the 27-year-old tried to run away on foot, but officers were able to safely detain him after a short chase. Rashika Jaipuriar, The Indianapolis Star, 27 June 2021 The overhaul package did that by replacing the normal cash bail-centric model with one that relies on risk factors when deciding whether to detain or release a person. Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune, 25 Mar. 2021 As defendants came through DC District Court following their arrests in their home states, judges held waves of hearings about whether to detain each of them. Katelyn Polantz, CNN, 20 June 2021 Chamorro was one of four pre-candidates arrested by Nicaraguan authorities in the past two weeks as President Daniel Ortega’s government moves to detain a wide swath of his opponents. Washington Post, 15 June 2021 The videos show a male Delta flight attendant appearing to detain the passenger in the back of the plane and also shows a passenger with his wrists ziptied tied behind his back. Bailey Schulz, USA TODAY, 5 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'detain.' 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 detain

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for detain

Middle English deteynen, from Anglo-French deteign-, stem of detenir, modification of Latin detinēre, from de- + tenēre to hold — more at thin

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Time Traveler for detain

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for detain

Last Updated

21 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Detain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/detain. Accessed 23 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for detain

detain

verb

English Language Learners Definition of detain

: to officially prevent (someone) from leaving a place : to hold or keep (someone) in a prison or some other place
formal : to keep or prevent (someone) from leaving or arriving at the expected time

detain

verb
de·​tain | \ di-ˈtān How to pronounce detain (audio) \
detained; detaining

Kids Definition of detain

1 : to hold or keep in or as if in prison The suspect was detained by police.
2 : to stop from going on : delay Snow detained our flight.

detain

transitive verb
de·​tain

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

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