1 of 2


de·​tec·​tive di-ˈtek-tiv How to pronounce detective (audio)
: fitted for or used in detecting something
had perfected his detective sensibilities
: of or relating to detectives or their work
a detective novel
detectivelike adjective


2 of 2


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

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
The matter has been turned over to the detective bureau. cleveland, 14 Sep. 2023 The novels in this roundup suggest that detective work is about much more than just the crime – especially when done in teams. Yvonne Zipp, The Christian Science Monitor, 8 Sep. 2023 This new special goes inside the long-running British detective drama and its spinoffs. Los Angeles Times Staff, Los Angeles Times, 9 June 2023 The detective bureau is following up on the matter. cleveland, 1 Sep. 2023 With chilling storylines of romance, betrayal and greed, detective intrigue and more, the series digs into relationships that turned deadly. Josie Howell |, al, 7 Aug. 2023 One provided pictures of a detective bureau desk decorated with the group’s symbol in several places. Keri Blakinger, Los Angeles Times, 30 May 2023 The form of the detective story forces readers to look closely for clues, to pay attention to characters or objects we might be conditioned to ignore. Jennifer Wilson, The New Yorker, 24 July 2023 Anyone with information about this homicide is asked to call the detective office tip line at 870-730-2106, the detective office at 870-730-2090, or the dispatch center at 870-541-5300. The Pine Bluff Commercial, Arkansas Online, 16 July 2023
After his death, Frankie gets retroactive exposition about his time in the Vietnam War; a police detective named KD (Mishel Prada) takes an interest in Winston, spoiling the series’ magical absence of normal law enforcement in favor of assassins’ secretive self-government. Alison Herman, Variety, 20 Sep. 2023 Four South Korean nationals and a Filipino national were also taken into custody, Cha Min-suk, a detective in Pyeongtaek, a city south of the capital Seoul, told NBC News in a telephone interview Wednesday. Stella Kim, NBC News, 20 Sep. 2023 Children napped near a kilo of fentanyl, police say A kilogram of fentanyl was discovered in an area where children napped at the Bronx day care center Friday, said Joseph Kenny, the New York Police Department’s chief of detectives. Mark Morales, CNN, 20 Sep. 2023 Homicide detectives soon focused their investigation on her ex-boyfriend, Syed, who was 17 then and a popular honors student at Woodlawn High School. Alex Mann, Baltimore Sun, 19 Sep. 2023 Anyone with information is asked to call homicide detectives at 205-254-1764 or Crime Stoppers at 205-254-7777. Carol Robinson |, al, 19 Sep. 2023 In addition to directing, Branagh reprises his role as the iconic detective Hercule Poirot opposite Camille Cottin, Michelle Yeoh, Tina Fey, Jamie Dornan, Jude Hill, Kyle Allen and Riccardo Scamarcio. Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter, 18 Sep. 2023 Investigations spread to South Carolina and Las Vegas where Heuermann owns property, with detectives there taking a fresh look at cases of missing women. Morgan Canty, CBS News, 16 Sep. 2023 The Independent reported that detectives reopened the case in 2021, according to the district attorney, and the baby's remains were disinterred in 2022. Liam Quinn, Peoplemag, 13 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'detective.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1732, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1849, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of detective was in 1732

Dictionary Entries Near detective

Cite this Entry

“Detective.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
de·​tec·​tive di-ˈtek-tiv How to pronounce detective (audio)
: of or relating to detectives or their work
a detective story


2 of 2 noun
: a person whose business is solving crimes and catching criminals or gathering information that is not easy to get

Legal Definition


: 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

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