de·​ten·​tion | \ di-ˈten-chən How to pronounce detention (audio) \

Definition of detention

1 : the act or fact of detaining or holding back especially : a holding in custody
2 : the state of being detained especially : a period of temporary custody prior to disposition by a court

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Examples of detention in a Sentence

the detention of suspected terrorists The jail is only used for brief detentions. They both got three detentions this year. He got detention for being late to class.
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Recent Examples on the Web Currently calls from jails and juvenile detention centers cost 21 cents per minute for prepaid inter-state calls and 33 cents per minute for local and in-state calls. Kelly Davis, San Diego Union-Tribune, "New San Diego County policy makes jail phone calls free, but shorter," 5 May 2021 Human rights groups and U.N. agencies have denounced inhumane treatment at Libyan detention centers, where migrants rescued or intercepted by the Libyan coast guard are taken., "Over 800 migrants rescued at sea head to Italy," 1 May 2021 Last year, it was reported that ICE was performing mass hysterectomies on migrant women at one of its Georgia detention centers. Cristina Escobar,, "For Rosa Reveals The Ugly History Of Forced Sterilizations," 30 Apr. 2021 Republican lawmakers have echoed Trump, including on several trips to the border that have included visits to detention centers housing migrant children. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Biden contends Trump administration failed to plan for migrant ‘overflow’," 30 Apr. 2021 Additionally, when the Libyan coast guard does rescue migrants from flimsy dinghies or fishing boats, they are brought back to inhumane conditions in detention centers, U.N. refugee agencies and human rights groups have lamented. Maria Grazia Murru And Frances D'emilio, Star Tribune, "Rescue groups decry loss of migrant lives in Mediterranean," 25 Apr. 2021 Another group, Never Again Action, was founded in 2019 and quickly received national attention for demonstrating in front of ICE detention centers, blocking the entrances and being arrested. Ben Sales,, "How Jewish refugee aid agency is doing under Biden," 21 Apr. 2021 The Guard will be involved with installing and maintaining border cameras, collecting data, analyzing imagery for trends in border crossings, and helping with operations at detention centers, Ducey's office said. Adam Shaw, Fox News, "Arizona Gov. Ducey deploys National Guard to southern border amid migrant crisis," 20 Apr. 2021 Marty Rosenbluth, a Lumpkin, Georgia, immigration lawyer, said another factor is the Biden Administration’s directive to review all cases to see who could be released and monitored instead of being held in detention centers. Nick Wooten, ajc, "COVID changed everything for Georgia group helping migrants," 18 Apr. 2021

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for detention

Middle English detencion, from Anglo-French or Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin detention-, detentio, from detinēre to detain

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Time Traveler for detention

Time Traveler

The first known use of detention was in the 15th century

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Statistics for detention

Last Updated

8 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Detention.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for detention



English Language Learners Definition of detention

: the act of keeping someone in a prison or similar place
: the state of being kept in a prison or similar place
: a punishment in which a student is required to stay at school after the rest of the students have left


de·​ten·​tion | \ di-ˈten-chən How to pronounce detention (audio) \

Kids Definition of detention

1 : the act of holding back or delaying : the condition of being held or delayed The prisoner was held in detention before trial.
2 : the punishment of being kept after school



Legal Definition of detention

1 : the act or fact of detaining or holding back especially : a holding in custody
2 : the state of being detained especially : a period of temporary custody prior to a trial or hearing — see also preventive detention

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