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

Keep scrolling for more

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

If a fall is detected, the watch will alert the wearer and prompt them to either dismiss it or call emergency services. Amy Marturana, SELF, "I Tried the Apple Watch Series 4 for a Week—Here’s What I Loved About It," 19 Sep. 2018 But 10 years is an eternity for her mother to have to live in the shadows and hope that she is not detected by immigration authorities. Lauren Blodgett, Glamour, "I Represent Migrant Children in Immigration Court. This Is What It's Like.," 26 July 2018 After the stroke was detected, we were quickly helicoptered to the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital via emergency medical air transport. Kerry Cromwell, Good Housekeeping, "My Little Boy Was Just 7 Years Old When He Had a Catastrophic Stroke," 26 July 2018 Iowa just enacted a law banning most abortions after six weeks, when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. New York Times, "Bulwark Against an Abortion Ban? Medical Advances," 1 July 2018 His parents blame the changes in his brain on chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, a traumatic and degenerative brain disease detected in many older athletes. Deborah Horne, ajc, "Washington State football player had brain damage at suicide," 28 June 2018 Ideally, Fennell said, federal regulators would have required not only backup cameras but also emergency braking and alert systems that automatically stop a vehicle when sensors detect objects or people in a rear blind spot. Jaclyn Cosgrove,, "Backup camera in every new car puts safety at forefront," 14 May 2018 According to England, the snack removal recommendation is part of an effort to better detect explosives on planes, and to limit the number of bags that are flagged for special searches. Martine Powers, Anchorage Daily News, "TSA screeners nibbling away at travelers' patience. This time over snacks.," 2 July 2018 Moonshine remains most closely associated with the Appalachian Mountains in America, where it was produced under the cover of night so smoke from the fire used to heat the copper stills couldn't be detected from afar. Alan Ashe, CNN, "It's National Moonshine Day. We answer your questions," 7 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about detect

Dictionary Entries near detect








Statistics for detect

Last Updated

21 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for detect

The first known use of detect was in 1574

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


noxious or harmful

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Thanksgiving Word Quiz

  • a-traditional-thanksgiving-dinner
  • November comes from a word for which of the following numbers?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!