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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Using a combination of detective work and innovative technology, everyone has pulled together to reveal the final resting place of this tenacious ship. Julia Buckley, CNN, 24 June 2022 When a gunman opened fire at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in 2016, a detective working extra duty shot at the gunman from outside the club. New York Times, 22 June 2022 Almost overnight, Buryak, head of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration, was thrust into a frantic, detective-like pursuit, scrambling for clues, trying to figure out where Russian soldiers were holding his son, and how to get him back. Paulina Villegas And Reis Thebault, Anchorage Daily News, 20 June 2022 Almost overnight, Buryak, head of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration, was thrust into a frantic, detective-like pursuit, scrambling for clues, trying to figure out where Russian soldiers were holding his son, and how to get him back. Reis Thebault, Washington Post, 19 June 2022 Jurors received school surveillance footage, detective interrogation clips and heard audio of jail phone calls of him apologizing to his family, WPTV reported. Garfield Hylton, orlandosentinel.com, 8 Apr. 2022 Police asked anyone with information on this homicide to call the detective office at (870) 730-2090 or the dispatch center at (870) 541-5300. Pine Bluff Commercial, Arkansas Online, 21 Mar. 2022 The fastidious Hercule Poirot was her first detective hero, and though the character has been played by many actors, David Suchet owned him on the small screen. Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times, 3 June 2022 The idea of the more detective, noirish Batman is just really fun. The New Yorker, 29 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Neither Stittum, the detective, nor Steven Ohmer, the prosecutor, offered a motive for the crime, and no one who testified described a conflict between Dunn and Rogers. Chris Pomorski, The New Republic, 23 June 2022 This iconic Alfred Hitchcock film follows a former San Francisco police detective (James Stewart), who is brought on a case to prevent his friend’s wife from dying by suicide. Lizz Schumer, Good Housekeeping, 22 June 2022 But her big break came on the second season of the CBS series Mannix, when the star detective (Mike Connors) sets up his own P.I. firm and hires Fisher’s character, Peggy Fair, to be his Girl Friday. Seth Abramovitch, The Hollywood Reporter, 19 June 2022 Easily one of Benedict Cumberbatch's breakout roles, Sherlock stars Cumberbatch as the famous detective, paired with Martin Freeman as his Dr. Watson. Milan Polk, Men's Health, 17 June 2022 Magistrate Robert Vann told an Indiana State Police detective that King made threats during a June 1 Zoom hearing discussing a child removed from her care. Chicago Tribune, 3 June 2022 Cruz was bullied by his brother and classmates, his brother told a detective. Scott Travis, Anchorage Daily News, 29 May 2022 The man told the detective Hayes showed him a rifle. Washington Post, 20 Apr. 2022 According to the criminal complaint, Janice Moyer, a clerk for the village of Menomonee Falls, told a Waukesha County Sheriff's Department detective that Tafoya voted twice in the fall primary election. Cathy Kozlowicz, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 18 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of detective

Adjective

1732, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1849, in the meaning defined above

Learn More About detective

Time Traveler for detective

Time Traveler

The first known use of detective was in 1732

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near detective

detection

detective

detector

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for detective

Last Updated

2 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Detective.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/detective. Accessed 3 Jul. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for detective

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

More from Merriam-Webster on detective

Nglish: Translation of detective for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of detective for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about detective

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Food

  • a-light
  • Name these cookies!
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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