de·ten·tion | \di-ˈten-chən \

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

Manuel Duran spoke with the Daily Beast about being arrested by Memphis police during a local protest, and his subsequent detention in ICE custody. Meagan Fredette, Teen Vogue, "Journalist Manuel Duran Believes He's in ICE Detention for Criticizing Memphis Police," 10 July 2018 Some Republican lawmakers are preparing a more narrow immigration bill that would address one of the flaws in Trump's executive order mandating that children and parents not be separated during their detention. Philip Rucker, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump advocates depriving undocumented immigrants of due-process rights," 24 June 2018 Since his detention, Noguera has been transferred to various immigration facilities. David Ovalle, miamiherald, "Raped as a child in Miami, he's facing deportation after testing positive for weed," 19 June 2018 Johnson was held on charges of disorderly conduct for allegedly kicking the door of the apartment where his friend's ex-girlfriend lives and hindering prosecution for refusing commands during his detention. Steve Almasy, CNN, "Man punched by Mesa police says he wants justice," 8 June 2018 If families are reunited in the U.S., they will be released and go through immigration proceedings outside of detention, which could take several months or years. Sarah Kinosian, Teen Vogue, "Reunification Proves Complicated for Families Separated at the U.S.-Mexico Border," 14 July 2018 The children's aunt in New York had already submitted paperwork with the Office of Refugee Resettlement prior to the mother’s release from detention, which was in process. Pamela Ren Larson, azcentral, "Guatemalan mother regains custody of her children after 54 days apart," 13 July 2018 His detention pulled Germany into Spain’s greatest political crisis in decades and triggered minor spats of tension between two countries that have traditionally been strong allies. Jeannette Neumann, WSJ, "German Court Authorizes Extradition to Spain of Catalonia’s Former Leader," 12 July 2018 Manafort's attorneys have denied the tampering allegations and appealed his detention. Rachel Weiner,, "Paul Manafort moves to Alexandria jail, a past home to spies and terrorists," 12 July 2018

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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Phrases Related to detention

detention center

in detention

Statistics for detention

Last Updated

3 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for detention

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

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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 \

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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Comments on detention

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