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 detectability (audio) , dē-​ \ noun
detectable \ di-​ˈtek-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce detectable (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

Uber announced a new safety program called RideCheck on Tuesday, aimed at automatically detecting crashes by using GPS and other sensors in its riders' and drivers' smartphones. Lisa Marie Segarra, Fortune, "Uber Now Knows If Your Ride Has Gone Wrong—By Tapping Your Smartphone’s Sensors," 17 Sep. 2019 Soon after storms started to move into Illinois last Wednesday night, the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Lake County, parts of Cook County and parts of McHenry County, after detecting rotation in storm clouds. Chicago Tribune Staff,, "Daywatch: Trial to begin in Tyshawn Lee slaying, WGN no longer Chicago’s very own and other things to know about to start your day," 17 Sep. 2019 Studies have shown that cockroaches and other types of insects seem to be capable of detecting magnetic fields (magneto-reception), and can also become magnetized themselves. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Cubed wombat poop, why your left nut runs hot, among Ig Nobel winners," 12 Sep. 2019 The telescope did its work not by imaging its target planets directly, but rather by detecting the slight dip in light whenever the planet orbited in front of the Earth-facing side of its star. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, "Why This Earth-Like Planet is a Big Step Forward in the Search for Life," 11 Sep. 2019 In June, Valisure made the news after detecting the solvent and potential carcinogen dimethylformamide (DMF) in valsartan, a blood pressure medicine, in several lots of the drug—including one from Novartis, which originally developed valsartan. Wired, "Three Ways to Fix the Drug Industry's Rampant Dysfunction," 10 Sep. 2019 The plaintiff, Bassem Banafa, worked as a forensic accountant for the office, and was considered an expert at detecting and documenting financial crimes. Nate Gartrell, The Mercury News, "Contra Costa settles religious discrimination suit against DA office," 23 Aug. 2019 China was the first in the region to detect the disease in August 2018. Sophie Jeong, CNN, "South Korea confirms first outbreak of African swine fever," 17 Sep. 2019 However, cruise missiles and drones fly far closer to the ground, making them harder for radar to detect. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, "Billions spent on U.S. weapons didn’t protect Saudi Arabia’s most critical oil sites from a crippling attack," 17 Sep. 2019

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

10 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for detect

The first known use of detect was in 1574

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on detect

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with detect

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for detect

Spanish Central: Translation of detect

Nglish: Translation of detect for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of detect for Arabic Speakers

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