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?

intransitive verb

: to work as a detective

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Other Words from detect

detectability \ di-​ˌtek-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce detect (audio) , dē-​ \ noun
detectable \ di-​ˈtek-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce detect (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 In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration approved a coronavirus antigen test that could quickly detect virus proteins from swabs that were swiped inside the naval cavity., "Today in History," 9 May 2021 It is secreted by the posterior pituitary gland in response to nerve signals sent from specialized brain sensors which detect subtle changes in water balance. Tamara Hew-butler, CNN, "Why you might not really need 8 glasses of water per day," 5 May 2021 Just like other small IoT devices, from voice assistants to tiny chemical sensors that can detect gas leaks, Tile trackers require a power source. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "We Could Really Have a Wireless Power Grid That Runs on 5G," 30 Apr. 2021 In the decades since many have returned, veterans are denied preventive screenings that could detect cancers related to toxic exposure. Abraham Mahshie, Washington Examiner, "EXCLUSIVE: 'Toxic wounds are wounds,' Jon Stewart says of military veterans and burn pits," 27 Apr. 2021 The claim that a sensor developed by Pentagon scientists is a microchip with an antenna that can detect COVID-19 is PARTLY FALSE, based on our research. Chiara Vercellone, USA TODAY, "Fact Check: Military sensor can help detect COVID-19, but it's not a microchip," 23 Apr. 2021 Georgia’s local public health departments offer a $122 well test that can detect a limited number of toxins, but not hexavalent chromium. Max Blau, ProPublica, "The Coal Plant Next Door," 22 Mar. 2021 For example, the mine's workers could wear sensors that can detect dangerous conditions, but that's not enough. Denis King, Forbes, "Digital Transformation And Event-Driven Architecture, Part One: Its Importance In The Supply Chain," 10 Mar. 2021 With many restrooms and public spaces closed during the pandemic, people are now using drugs in more public areas, rushing and not always taking time to use test strips that can detect fentanyl, public health workers say. Usha Lee Mcfarling, STAT, "As the pandemic ushered in isolation and financial hardship, overdose deaths reached new heights," 16 Feb. 2021

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

13 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Detect.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 2021.

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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 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

Comments on detect

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