de·​tect | \ di-ˈtekt How to pronounce detect (audio) , dē- \
detected; detecting; detects

Definition of detect

transitive verb

1 : to discover the true character of detecting drug smugglers
2 : to discover or determine the existence, presence, or fact of detect alcohol in the blood Do I detect a note of sarcasm in your voice?

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Other Words from detect

detectability \ di-​ˌtek-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce detect (audio) , dē-​ \ noun
detectable \ di-​ˈtek-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce detect (audio) , dē-​ \ adjective

Examples of detect in a Sentence

The test is used to detect the presence of alcohol in the blood. This type of cancer is difficult to detect in its early stages.
Recent Examples on the Web Alarms that detect smoke and carbon monoxide could help to save your pet’s life in an emergency. Laura Lajiness, House Beautiful, "6 Ways to Keep Pets Safe At Home This Winter," 6 Jan. 2021 But the positivity rate of RT-PCR tests, which detect the virus’s genetic material, topped 16%. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "Country venue blues, ice shanty dining, turkey sightings: News from around our 50 states," 5 Jan. 2021 Antigen tests are fast, taking as little as five minutes, but are less accurate than tests that detect genetic material from the virus. New York Times, "Trump’s Focus as the Pandemic Raged: What Would It Mean for Him?," 31 Dec. 2020 Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s cloud computing service offered its clients facial recognition software that can detect Uighur and other ethnic minority people’s faces. Naomi Xu Elegant, Fortune, "Joe Biden underestimated China’s ability to innovate before. He shouldn’t repeat that mistake," 17 Dec. 2020 There are currently two types of diagnostic tests: molecular tests, such as RT-PCR tests, that look for the virus's genetic material; and antigen tests that detect specific proteins from the virus. Shelby Lin Erdman, CNN, "FDA authorizes first over-the-counter, non-prescription Covid-19 test system for home use," 9 Dec. 2020 The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute is providing 52 police agencies across the state with a new roadside tool that can detect the presence of cocaine, opiates, cannabis and other drugs. Associated Press Staff,, "Lake County among Indiana police departments to begin using new roadside drug detection tool," 20 Dec. 2020 Machine learning leverages all the data available and can detect important hidden patterns that will otherwise go unnoticed—and alert us to the heightened needs of people who might otherwise slip through the cracks. Gary Velasquez, Fortune, "The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is dangerously flawed. Science and data could fix it," 18 Dec. 2020 Next-generation sequencing technologies, which can detect many genetic mutations at once, are enabling common testing for a longer list of genetic biomarkers. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "Biomarkers are how cancers give up their secrets," 18 Dec. 2020

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

1574, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for detect

Middle English, from Latin detectus, past participle of detegere to uncover, detect, from de- + tegere to cover — more at thatch

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Time Traveler for detect

Time Traveler

The first known use of detect was in 1574

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Statistics for detect

Last Updated

13 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Detect.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for detect


How to pronounce detect (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of detect

: to discover or notice the presence of (something that is hidden or hard to see, hear, taste, etc.)


de·​tect | \ di-ˈtekt How to pronounce detect (audio) \
detected; detecting

Kids Definition of detect

: to learn that something or someone is or was there detect smoke

Other Words from detect

detector \ -​ˈtek-​tər \ noun

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Comments on detect

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