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

transitive verb

: to discover the true character of
detecting drug smugglers
: 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?

intransitive verb

: to work as a detective
detectability noun
detectable 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 But many other health threats that are out there, and the CDC is designed to be that asset for this country to detect and respond to threats. Abc News, ABC News, 13 Sep. 2023 Deepening rift among Republicans threatens future of Ukraine aid That proximity means the bombs are in the air for far less time than typical missiles, which air defenses are calibrated to detect and intercept. Serhii Korolchuk, Washington Post, 13 Sep. 2023 The watch processes data from the gyroscope and accelerometer and uses machine learning algorithms to process minute changes in blood flow to detect your tiny motions. Adrienne So, WIRED, 12 Sep. 2023 Different models can detect flaws in machines from their rhythms, improve warehouse picking machines, and explore the mysteries of biology. IEEE Spectrum, 12 Sep. 2023 And astronomers previously detected water vapor on a Neptune-sized planet in the constellation Cygnus, writes the Guardian’s Richard Luscombe. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 12 Sep. 2023 Uneven pathways, which are especially hard to detect in dim light, can make someone trip and fall. Jeanne Huber, Washington Post, 1 Sep. 2023 Results are 99% accurate, according to the company, and the device can detect subtle changes in hormone levels to help determine the best time for conceiving or avoiding pregnancy. Lindsay Modglin, Health, 1 Sep. 2023 Even the ability to detect disease recurrence is getting better. Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY, 1 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'detect.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1574, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of detect was in 1574

Dictionary Entries Near detect

Cite this Entry

“Detect.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


de·​tect di-ˈtekt How to pronounce detect (audio)
: to discover the nature, existence, presence, or fact of
detect the approach of an airplane
detectable adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on detect

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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