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 detectability (audio) , dē-​ \ noun
detectable \ di-​ˈtek-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce detectable (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 As of today, antibody tests are only used in individuals to detect past infections, not active cases, using a blood sample. Joe Carlson, Star Tribune, "6 things you need to know about COVID-19 testing in Minnesota," 11 Nov. 2020 The researchers conducted a series of experiments using fish called round gobies to assess the fish’s ability to detect textures and pressure using their fins. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "Some Fish Fins Are as Sensitive as a Primate’s Fingertips," 9 Nov. 2020 Benford's Law is often used by election analysts, both in the United States and abroad, to detect voter fraud or other sorts of improprieties in elections. Joseph Simonson, Washington Examiner, "Trump campaign staff claims to have statistical evidence of fraud in Wisconsin," 8 Nov. 2020 Rescue workers scrambling to find more survivors used listening devices to detect more signs of life. The Christian Science Monitor, "Two girls rescued from rubble after earthquake in Turkey," 2 Nov. 2020 Elsewhere in Izmir, rescue workers scrambled to find more survivors used listening devices to detect any signs of life., "2 Children Pulled Alive in Dramatic Turkey Quake Rescues," 2 Nov. 2020 The rock of reason Until now, testing in rich countries has relied almost entirely on PCR tests which detect tiny amounts of the RNA on which the covid-19 virus stores its genome. The Economist, "The second wave of covid-19 has sent much of Europe back into lockdown," 7 Nov. 2020 The tests aren’t the higher-quality PCR diagnostic tests that were used in Qingdao, which detect the presence of viral genetic material. Drew Hinshaw, WSJ, "As Covid-19 Sweeps Europe, One Country Tries to Test the Entire Population," 23 Oct. 2020 Kinsa's remarkable and enterprising ability to detect pockets of outbreak weeks in advance is among them. Mike Masterson, Arkansas Online, "OPINION | MASTERSON ONLINE: Mapping it out," 18 Oct. 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

20 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Detect.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.

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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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