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 Chinese scientists announced a breakthrough in an advanced military surveillance device designed to enhance China’s electronic warfare capabilities to detect and disrupt enemy signals at unprecedented speeds—using technology previously deemed unattainable. Byhoracio Rozanski, Fortune, 10 June 2024 Elevated levels of toxins were first detected in shellfish on the state's central and north coasts on May 17, Matthew Hunter, shellfish program manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said during a briefing at the time. CBS News, 10 June 2024 Sergey Radchenko, a historian at Johns Hopkins University, comes from the East Asian island of Sakhalin, a good place from which to detect geopolitical gravitations. John Lewis Gaddis, Foreign Affairs, 7 June 2024 Advertisement The source of lethal exposure is unknown, but the virus had previously been detected in poultry in Mexico. Summer Lin, Los Angeles Times, 6 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for detect 

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 17 Jun. 2024.

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

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