de·tect | \di-ˈtekt, dē-\

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?

intransitive verb

: to work as a detective

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Other Words from detect

detectability \-ˌtek-tə-ˈbi-lə-tē \ noun
detectable \-ˈtek-tə-bəl \ 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

All told, disease-carrying ticks were detected in 83 counties where they'd never been found before across 24 states. Dennis Thompson, CBS News, "Ticks that carry Lyme disease are spreading fast," 13 July 2018 This abnormality is detected on the 12-lead ECGSTEMI care. Jennie Key,, "City wins appeal in public records lawsuit," 12 July 2018 She was woken up at 2 a.m. by an alert on her phone that movement was detected at her front door. Lisa Gutierrez, kansascity, "He was trying to go to sleep. Then this monster snake fell out of the ceiling," 12 July 2018 Lightning strikes were also detected about 40 miles off the coast. Robert Krier,, "Steamy weather might include thunderstorms," 10 July 2018 No fire was found, but the department is investigating after an odor of smoke was detected in the building. Ruth Bruno,, "Simsbury Stop & Shop Evacuated, Fire Department Investigates," 10 July 2018 Timehop’s engineers locked out the attackers two hours after the breach was detected — but not before the thieves gained access to names, emails and phone numbers of Timehop users. Nicolas Vega, Fox News, "Timehop data breach affects some 21 million users," 10 July 2018 In some areas, two toxic subspecies of the algae were detected. Jenny Staletovich, miamiherald, "What’s an algae bloom and how did it wind up sliming Florida’s biggest lake?," 10 July 2018 Almost all of the substances on the WADA Prohibited List are detected with tests that have some kind of subjective interpretation. Joe Lindsey, Outside Online, "The Chris Froome Ruling Just Broke Anti-Doping," 3 July 2018

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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Statistics for detect

Last Updated

10 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for detect

The first known use of detect was in 1574

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More Definitions for detect



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 \
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

What made you want to look up detect? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a state of commotion or excitement

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