detain

verb
de·​tain | \ di-ˈtān , 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 \ -​mənt \ 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

Protesters are demanding basic services and the release of those detained in previous demonstrations. Fox News, "Iraqi activist shot dead in tense southern city of Basra," 25 Sep. 2018 The rate at which black residents were detained for traffic or pedestrian stops was more than six times higher than whites, according to the ACLU's analysis. NBC News, "Milwaukee to pay $3.4 million to settle 'stop-and-frisk' lawsuit," 10 July 2018 The only other one publicly identified is Austin Tice, a freelance journalist detained at a checkpoint outside Damascus in 2012. Dion Nissenbaum, WSJ, "Seeking Help, Family Breaks Silence on American Missing in Syria," 20 Jan. 2019 Fabiano, a Brazilian native, was arrested and detained at his green card interview in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Marie Claire, "Separating Families at the Border Is Just One Way Trump is Trying to Tear Apart Immigrant Families," 25 June 2018 Such a change would allow the government to detain immigrant families until an immigration judge decides the fate of their immigration case. Alicia A. Caldwell, WSJ, "Trump Administration Targets Immigrants on Public Assistance," 23 Sep. 2018 This doesn’t necessarily mean Trump would win a public political argument over detaining migrant families. Scott Clement, Washington Post, "The public rejected Trump’s child-separation policy, but a majority supports his push to detain families until court hearings," 13 July 2018 On Monday, a federal judge in Los Angeles emphatically rejected the Trump administration's efforts to detain immigrant families for an extended period. Elliot Spagat And Mike Householder, chicagotribune.com, "Government falls short of deadline to reunite kids, parents separated at the border," 11 July 2018 On Monday, a federal judge in Los Angeles emphatically rejected the Trump administration’s efforts to detain immigrant families for an extended period. Time, "Government Falls Short of Deadline to Reunite Separated Migrant Kids and Their Parents," 11 July 2018

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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Statistics for detain

Last Updated

11 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for detain

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

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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 \
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

Spanish Central: Translation of detain

Nglish: Translation of detain for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of detain for Arabic Speakers

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