drag·​net | \ˈdrag-ˌnet \

Definition of dragnet 

1a : a net drawn along the bottom of a body of water

b : a net used on the ground (as to capture small game)

2 : a network of measures for apprehension (as of criminals)

Examples of dragnet in a Sentence

Nine suspects were caught in the police dragnet.

Recent Examples on the Web

Following his completion of basic training, Xilong Zhu, 27, was detained by ICE officials after he was swept up in an immigration dragnet involving fake student visas. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Trump is following through on his ‘America First’ mantra. Why are some people so surprised?," 5 Apr. 2018 The subway turnstile — low enough to vault, ubiquitous enough to figure in the lives of millions of New Yorkers each day — has long served as a kind of dragnet for the Police Department. J. David Goodman, New York Times, "Turnstile Jumping Pits de Blasio Against Police Reformers," 7 Feb. 2018 Authorities launched a dragnet around the French capital on Sunday after a notorious criminal serving 25 years for murder used a helicopter Sunday to escape from a prison south of Paris. Travis Fedschun, Fox News, "Notorious French criminal escapes from prison using helicopter, sparks massive manhunt around Paris," 1 July 2018 In a December test of the dragnet in Guiyang, a city of 4.3 million people in southwest China, a BBC reporter was flagged for arrest within seven minutes of police adding his headshot to a facial recognition database. Lily Hay Newman, WIRED, "Facial Recognition Tech Is Creepy When It Works—And Creepier When It Doesn’t," 9 May 2018 The outcome was pure Kafka, with innocent people being caught in the surveillance dragnet. Kyle Chayka, Newsweek, "Biometric Surveillance Means Someone Is Always Watching," 17 Apr. 2014 But the implications of such DNA dragnets could extend beyond murder cases. Fortune, "DNA Detectives Are Searching for Killers in Your Family Tree," 14 June 2018 However, a few of the worst scoundrels, including Mr. Warner, managed to elude the U.S. dragnet despite the evidence amassed against him. David Hirshey, WSJ, "World Cup Books Reviewed: The World Without America," 7 June 2018 Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia dragnet is a Department of Justice production. Simon Van Zuylen-wood, Daily Intelligencer, "How Neil Gorsuch Became the Second-Most-Polarizing Man in Washington," 28 May 2018

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

circa 1541, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Dictionary Entries near dragnet


drag link



dragnet clause



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Time Traveler for dragnet

The first known use of dragnet was circa 1541

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English Language Learners Definition of dragnet

: a series of actions that are done by the police in order to catch criminals

: a net that is pulled along the bottom of a river, lake, pond, etc., to search for or collect something


drag·​net | \ˈdrag-ˌnet \

Kids Definition of dragnet

1 : a net that is pulled along the bottom of a body of water in order to catch or find something

2 : a series of actions by police for catching a criminal

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More from Merriam-Webster on dragnet

See words that rhyme with dragnet

Spanish Central: Translation of dragnet

Nglish: Translation of dragnet for Spanish Speakers

Comments on dragnet

What made you want to look up dragnet? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


playful or foolish behavior

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