in·ter·cept | \ ˌin-tər-ˈsept \
intercepted; intercepting; intercepts

Definition of intercept 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to stop, seize, or interrupt in progress or course or before arrival

b : to receive (a communication or signal directed elsewhere) usually secretly

2a : to gain possession of (an opponent's pass)

b : to intercept a pass thrown by (an opponent)

3 : to include (part of a curve, surface, or solid) between two points, curves, or surfaces the part of a circumference intercepted between two radii

4 obsolete : prevent, hinder

5 obsolete : to interrupt communication or connection with


in·ter·cept | \ ˈin-tər-ˌsept \

Definition of intercept (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the distance from the origin to a point where a graph crosses a coordinate axis

2 : interception especially : the interception of a missile by an interceptor or of a target by a missile

3 : a message, code, or signal that is intercepted (as by monitoring radio communications)

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Synonyms for intercept

Synonyms: Verb

block, interdict, pick off

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Did You Know?

Since the prefix inter means "between", it's not hard to see how intercept was created. Arms shipments coming to a country are sometimes intercepted, but such interceptions can sometimes be understood as acts of war. In football, soccer, and basketball, players try to intercept the ball as it's being passed by the other team. In years gone by, letters and documents being carried between officers or officials were sometimes intercepted when the carrier was caught; today, when these communications are generally electronic, an intercepted e-mail isn't actually stopped, but simply read secretly by a third party.

Examples of intercept in a Sentence


Detectives have been intercepting her mail. The police intercepted him as he was walking out.

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Commonly intercepted products in the El Paso area include sports related apparel, make up, cell phones and accessories, sunglasses, jewelry, and footwear. Alex Park, Houston Chronicle, "CBP seizes hundreds of counterfeit World Cup soccer jerseys," 2 July 2018 For example, police used it during the 2015 Baltimore protests following the death of Freddie Gray to find protesters with outstanding warrants and intercept them. Ashley Wong, USA TODAY, "What is Geofeedia? The tool police say could have warned them to Capital Gazette shooter," 30 June 2018 Those transmissions can be intercepted using free computer software and an antenna that costs less than $30, equipment often used by radio or tech hobbyists. Andy Marso And Kelsey Ryan, kansascity, "Does your hospital still use pagers? Your personal information may be at risk," 22 June 2018 Missiles fired by the Houthi militia, a Shia group that overthrew the Yemeni government in 2015, are usually intercepted or fall harmlessly in the Saudi desert. The Economist, "Insecurity complexGulf states fear being encircled by Iran and abandoned by America," 21 June 2018 The atmosphere quickly becomes more dystopian as the other players in the video appear -- grey-suited and corporate, mask-wearing adults who are intercepting her every move. Lilly Milman, Billboard, "Alessia Cara Drops Dystopian 'Growing Pains' Music Video: Watch," 20 June 2018 He was intercepted only five time in 392 pass attempts, completing 251. Richard Obert, azcentral, "Desert Mountain QB Kedon Slovis' recruiting taking off with Kurt Warner's help," 16 May 2018 Orlando struck in the 11th minute when Alanna Kennedy intercepted a pass in the midfield and shot from just past midfield over the outstretched arms of Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe., "Digest (June 24): Brigade keep AFL lead despite loss to Empire," 24 June 2018 The military says fighting began early Sunday when soldiers intercepted a group of insurgents along the highly militarized de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Fox News, "India army: Soldiers kill 6 militants along Kashmir frontier," 10 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

That is not even to mention the financial ties between Trump, his inner circle, and the Russian Mafia, or the intelligence intercepts of Russian officials describing their inroads in the Trump campaign, all of which predate the investigation. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump’s Latest and Most Insane New Theory for Shutting Down Mueller Probe," 25 June 2018 These had flown to the intercept from bases as far away as California. William Langewiesche, The Atlantic, "An Extraordinarily Expensive Way to Fight ISIS," 21 June 2018 On Tuesday, one of Medina's first intercepts of the day was a group of nine adults and five children, ranging in age from 8 months to 12 years old. Rick Jervis, USA TODAY, "'It's a game of hide-and-seek': A look at how Border Patrol apprehends illegal immigrants," 21 June 2018 Human sources and communications intercepts are hard to come by. NBC News, "CIA report says North Korea won't denuclearize, but might open a burger joint," 29 May 2018 The system in Alaska and California has drawn criticism for its high cost and questionable record; only 10 of the system's 18 intercept tests since 1999 have hit their targets. Author: Paul Sonne, Anchorage Daily News, "Pentagon looks to adjust missile defense policy to include threats from Russia, China," 2 Mar. 2018 The study found that since 2005, intercepts of North Korean smuggling have fallen sharply, even as claims of cybertheft—including North Korea’s alleged ties to 2016’s $81 million cyberheist from the Bangladesh central bank—have risen., "Why Doesn’t North Korea Want to Be More Like Its Neighbors?," 23 May 2018 But the intercepts and reports also suggest that Baghdadi has shifted his attention in recent months to crafting an ideological framework that will survive the physical destruction of the caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Joby Warrick And Souad Mekhennet,, "Clues suggest ISIS leader is still alive — and busy with a chilling new mission," 19 May 2018 The intercept was the first since January, when another Russian fighter jet came within five feet of a U.S. spy plane over the Black Sea. CBS News, "Russian fighter jet comes within feet of U.S. spy plane over Baltic sea," 1 May 2018

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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


1821, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for intercept


Middle English, from Latin interceptus, past participle of intercipere, from inter- + capere to take, seize — more at heave

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Statistics for intercept

Last Updated

5 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for intercept

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

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More Definitions for intercept



English Language Learners Definition of intercept

: to stop and take someone or something that is going from one place to another place before that person or thing gets there

sports : to catch or receive (a pass made by an opponent)


in·ter·cept | \ ˌin-tər-ˈsept \
intercepted; intercepting

Kids Definition of intercept

1 : to take, seize, or stop before reaching an intended destination intercept a message

2 : to catch (a football) passed by a member of the opposing team


transitive verb

Legal Definition of intercept 

: to receive (a communication or signal directed elsewhere) usually secretly shall not be unlawful…for a person not acting under color of law to intercept a wire, oral, or electronic communication where such person is a party to the communicationU.S. Code

Other words from intercept

interception noun

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Comments on intercept

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