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 detainment (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 According to spreadsheets submitted Friday, many of the children in ICE custody with their families have been detained for more than 20 days; some since August 2019. Camilo Montoya-galvez, CBS News, "ICE asked migrant parents whether they wished to be separated from their children, agency tells court," 16 May 2020 The other two, the Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth and the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, mainly hold immigrants detained in New Jersey. New York Times, "‘Everybody Was Sick’: Inside an ICE Detention Center," 15 May 2020 The 1939 Emergency Powers Act granted the wartime government extraordinary powers to rule by decree, acquire property, and detain without trial. Tom Mctague, The Atlantic, "We Are Stronger Than We Think," 14 May 2020 The officer noted that the suspect was a bit dirty due to his being detained on the ground, but did not see any signs of a physical assault. cleveland, "Witness detains theft suspect at bus stop: Middleburg Heights Police Blotter," 13 May 2020 Relations between the two countries deteriorated sharply after Canada detained Huawei Technologies Co.’s chief financial officer on an American request in an Iran sanctions case. Kait Bolongaro, Bloomberg.com, "Opinion of China Hits New Low in Canada Amid Virus, Huawei Case," 13 May 2020 In China, Chen Mei is one of five citizen journalists detained after disseminating information about the spread of the disease. Ned Temko, The Christian Science Monitor, "COVID-19 brings new threat to journalists: jail," 13 May 2020 Berry's uncle eventually exited the vehicle and was detained, court documents say. Perry Vandell, azcentral, "Buckeye man suspected of fatally shooting man he said threatened to kill him," 12 May 2020 Lange’s images show the detained as regular people who had to cope with an outrageously unjust confinement—and who, in doing so, were buoyed by being together, at least. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "Dorothea Lange and Félix Fénéon at MOMA, and Online," 11 May 2020

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

19 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Detain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/detain. Accessed 24 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for detain

detain

verb
How to pronounce detain (audio)

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.
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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More from Merriam-Webster on detain

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for detain

Spanish Central: Translation of detain

Nglish: Translation of detain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of detain for Arabic Speakers

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