detective

adjective
de·​tec·​tive | \ di-ˈtek-tiv How to pronounce detective (audio) \

Definition of detective

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : fitted for or used in detecting something had perfected his detective sensibilities
2 : of or relating to detectives or their work a detective novel

detective

noun

Definition of detective (Entry 2 of 2)

: one employed or engaged in detecting lawbreakers or in getting information that is not readily or publicly accessible

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Other Words from detective

Adjective

detectivelike \ di-​ˈtek-​tiv-​ˌlīk How to pronounce detective (audio) \ adjective

Examples of detective in a Sentence

Adjective We had to do some detective work to find out who used to own the property. He enjoys reading detective novels. Noun She is a detective on the police force. Detective Sgt. Lee is working on the case. She hired a detective to follow her husband.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Right after the shooting, Jennifer Faith gave a detective permission to look at the contents of her cellphone, an affidavit says. Tom Steele, Dallas News, "Texts between Dallas woman and man accused of killing her husband reveal attempted cover-up, feds say," 25 Feb. 2021 The actors costarred on the series for 12 years as a detective duo before Meloni left in 2011 due to issues with contract negotiations. Natalie Stone, PEOPLE.com, "Law & Order: SVU's Elliot Stabler Calls Out to a Shocked Olivia Benson in New Reunion Promo," 25 Feb. 2021 Ramirez's death sparked protests and calls to fire Colling, who is currently still with the department but was moved to a detective role and was taken off patrol, according to Sheriff Appelhans. Emma Tucker, CNN, "The first Black sheriff in Wyoming takes over an agency that has faced significant controversy," 20 Feb. 2021 Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan star in this Irish crime drama as a detective and serial killer, respectively. Brian Tallerico, Vulture, "The 50 Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime Right Now," 1 Feb. 2021 But, as happens in detective fiction, a seemingly mundane assignment will expose deeper fissures, just as the sudden reappearance of an old friend turned enemy — Samuel Adewumni’s Carcer Dun — will set Vimes on a new trajectory. Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Fans of the book are picking apart ‘The Watch.’ But it’s a colorful, energetic treat," 3 Jan. 2021 By Davis’ estimation, the Yoder case took more detective work than 90% of his other investigations, including those that ended with convictions. Matt Hamilton, Los Angeles Times, "An infant dies, a millionaire doctor calls 911, and a tale emerges of drugs, love and suspected crime," 2 Dec. 2020 Two brothers who moved back from the city to their parent’s hometown realize their detective father is taking on a secret investigation, so the boys take it upon themselves to start an investigation of their own. Nina Zafar, Washington Post, "What to watch on Friday: ‘Sound of Metal’ on Amazon Prime," 4 Dec. 2020 Many consider Roman Polanski’s detective tale to be among the greatest films of all time. Neal Justin, Star Tribune, "From 'Chinatown' to 'Kung Fu Panda': Minnesota's James Hong looks back at his prolific career," 13 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Former detective Brett Hankison has been indicted, but not for Taylor's killing. Ganesh Setty, CNN, "Louisville police move to fire two detectives involved in Breonna Taylor raid," 29 Dec. 2020 García, a former homicide detective, stopped by to meet Dallas’ homicide unit last week. Cassandra Jaramillo, Dallas News, "‘Ready to get to work’: Dallas Police Chief Eddie García on the job even before Day 1," 2 Feb. 2021 Anyone with information is asked to call NOPD homicide detective Eric Vilhelmsen at 504-658-5300 or Crimestoppers of Greater New Orleans at 504-822-1111. Staff Report, NOLA.com, "Man fatally shot in Little Woods home in New Orleans," 30 Jan. 2021 Each episode features a different homicide detective whose efforts helped put a killer behind bars. Washington Post, "What to watch on Monday: ‘A Perfect Planet’ on Discovery Plus," 4 Jan. 2021 Boseman plays Davis, a New York homicide detective tasked with catching a group of cop killers. New York Times, "What’s on TV This Week: ‘Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President’ and ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’," 28 Dec. 2020 The night before the election, a homicide detective named Keith Arnaud was sent to arrest Daphne at home. Ben Taub, The New Yorker, "Murder in Malta," 14 Dec. 2020 The conditions have resulted in some police officers opting to be less proactive, said Alfred Titus Jr., an assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former homicide detective with the New York Police Department. Fox News, "Could new Cuomo COVID restrictions cause an uptick in violent crime?," 12 Nov. 2020 Taylor, a former St. Louis homicide detective, quit the POA in 2016, when the union paid a $100,000 bond to free Jason Stockley, a white officer who shot and killed a Black motorist in 2011. Sam Adler-bell, The New Republic, "How Police Unions Bully Politicians," 20 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'detective.' 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 detective

Adjective

1732, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1849, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for detective

Time Traveler

The first known use of detective was in 1732

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Statistics for detective

Last Updated

4 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Detective.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/detective. Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for detective

detective

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of detective

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: done in order to find out hidden or unknown information
: of or relating to crimes and detectives

detective

noun

English Language Learners Definition of detective (Entry 2 of 2)

: a police officer whose job is to find information about crimes that have occurred and to catch criminals
: a person whose job is to find information about something or someone

detective

noun
de·​tec·​tive | \ di-ˈtek-tiv How to pronounce detective (audio) \

Kids Definition of detective

1 : a police officer who investigates crimes and catches criminals
2 : a person whose job is to find information about someone or something

detective

noun
de·​tec·​tive

Legal Definition of detective

: a person engaged or employed in detecting lawbreakers or in getting information that is not readily or publicly accessible a police detective hired a private detective

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