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

Example Sentences

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 Under the bill, the filer must include an attestation from a person qualified to perform an ultrasound that a fetal heartbeat has been detected. Molly Beck, Journal Sentinel, 30 May 2023 In the latest attack, air alarms sounded in Kyiv at around 1 a.m. on Sunday as the first wave of Shahed-136 drones streaming toward the city was detected. Andrés R. Martínez, New York Times, 27 May 2023 For example, diagnostic algorithms are used to predict the presence of gallstones in patients with abdominal pain or urinary tract infections, or to detect breast cancer using radiologic imaging. Anirban Basu, The Conversation, 26 May 2023 Though there has been no destruction of electronic data or equipment, the intruders could be laying the groundwork to disrupt communications between North America and Asia in the event of a military confrontation, according to researchers at Microsoft, which detected the infiltration. Joseph Menn, Anchorage Daily News, 25 May 2023 After detecting the breach, Fernandez said the city began wiping its computer systems and rebuilding them with new security measures, including multifactor authentication. Laura Crimaldi,, 14 May 2023 YouTube decided to start detecting ad blockers and refusing to play videos until the blocker is either disabled or users sign up for a Premium subscription. Matthew Humphries, PCMAG, 11 May 2023 Thursday marks the end of the public health emergency in the United States, more than three years after it was first declared to combat the novel coronavirus by unlocking powerful tools to detect and contain the emerging threat. Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY, 11 May 2023 The prototype found traces of organic molecules even in the presence of more perchlorate than Phoenix detected in Martian soil, Brinckerhoff says. Carmen Drahl, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 May 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 6 Jun. 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

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