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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Police shared images of a person of interest and two days later arrested Jamarion Holmes, 18, who is charged with first-degree murder and was held Saturday in the Pulaski County jail on a $1 million bond, detention records show. Grant Lancaster, Arkansas Online, 7 Aug. 2022 Griner’s detention in Russia since Feb. 17 has brought great media attention to the WNBA, and the intentions are good. Christopher L. Gasper,, 6 Aug. 2022 Ola’s mother, Tania, was suspected in the arson and spent almost a year in Soviet detention. New York Times, 5 Aug. 2022 In their letter to Blinken, Castro and Kim warned that if the U.S. does not take a firm stance on Rusesabagina's detention, others may be at risk. Morgan Winsor, ABC News, 4 Aug. 2022 Their articles frequently criticized the U.S. and the West, and appeared to attempt to smooth over concerns in those countries, such as China limiting democracy in Hong Kong and putting ethnic minority Uyghur citizens into detention camps. Kevin Collier, NBC News, 4 Aug. 2022 The Chinese government has targeted the Xinjiang region’s mostly Muslim ethnic minorities with mass-detention internment camps and omnipresent surveillance as part of a yearslong campaign of forcible assimilation. Newley Purnell, WSJ, 4 Aug. 2022 Steven Michael Crowder, 23, had been working as a detention officer with the Troup County Sheriff's Office since January. Landon Mion, Fox News, 3 Aug. 2022 The Haitian refugee crisis of 1991, not the attacks of 9/11, was the inciting event that converted Guantánamo Bay into a space for indefinite detention. Steven W. Thrasher, Rolling Stone, 2 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

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

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

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Dictionary Entries Near detention



detention center

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Last Updated

12 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Detention.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for detention


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

More from Merriam-Webster on detention

Nglish: Translation of detention for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of detention for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about detention


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