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

Instead of handing off to Marshawn Lynch on the one-yard line, Russell Wilson was intercepted in the end zone by Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl XLIX. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "Oh, So Now the Seahawks Want to Run the Ball," 14 Dec. 2018 The Israeli military said most of the projectiles fired Tuesday were intercepted, but three soldiers were wounded. Fares Akram, The Christian Science Monitor, "Israel and Hamas agree to cease-fire," 30 May 2018 Syrian state media said the country’s air defenses intercepted most of the missiles launched by Israel late Sunday night. Dov Lieber, WSJ, "Israel Hits Iranian Targets in Syria After Attack on Golan Heights," 21 Jan. 2019 Middle linebacker Chuck Weber intercepted Dallas quarterback Eddie LeBaron three times and Bobby Freeman blocked two extra points. Ed Barkowitz,, "From Eagles-Cowboys to Ali-Frazier, a quick sampling of Philadelphia sports' first meetings," 12 June 2018 The malware authors also focused on intercepting industrial control system communications that control large-scale systems such as gas pipelines, power transmission and water distribution, which is another reason for the FBI to be concerned. Ken Colburn, azcentral, "Heed FBI's warning: Protect your router from hackers. Here's how," 11 June 2018 One method involves good drones intercepting bad ones with a net. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "We Still Have No Idea How to Deal With Drones," 21 Dec. 2018 This from a corner who has seven career picks and none since intercepting Kirk Cousins in September 2015. Dan Wiederer,, "Prince Amukamara 'reaching for the stars' with his 10-interception goal this season," 11 July 2018 Postal employees in Fruitland Park, alerted to be on the watch for the distinctive envelopes after a letter-carrier found one in a corner mailbox, intercepted six more envelopes between April 30 and May 16. Stephen Hudak,, "Lake County man charged by feds in anthrax hoax, faces 15 years in prison," 12 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Excerpts of the Central Intelligence Agency’s assessment, which cites electronic intercepts and other clandestine information, were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Warren P. Strobel, WSJ, "CIA Intercepts Underpin Assessment Saudi Crown Prince Targeted Khashoggi," 1 Dec. 2018 Aware from intelligence intercepts of Kislyak that this statement was false, acting Attorney General Sally Yates then warned the White House that Flynn had misled Pence and could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Andrew Prokop, Vox, "Sean Spicer’s book misleads about 2 events Mueller is investigating," 26 July 2018 Prosecutors told the court the police investigation that began in March involved intercepts of 17,000 phone calls and 10,500 text messages plus 7,800 hours of other covert recordings. Rod Mcguirk, The Seattle Times, "3 men charged with planning mass killing in Australian city," 19 Nov. 2018 Since 9/11, the military, under Operation Noble Eagle, has made more than 1,800 intercepts of nonmilitary aircraft. Frank Miles, Fox News, "Air Force fighter intercepts plane near Trump NJ golf course," 22 July 2018 Located on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, Barking Sands is often used as a launch point and monitoring station for ballistic intercept tests. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Japanese Destroyer Just Shot Down a Simulated Ballistic Missile," 18 Sep. 2018 In this instance, AI could serve an enormously valuable defensive function by performing intercepts exponentially faster than having a human decision maker involved. Kris Osborn, Fox News, "Pentagon makes massive new AI push for tanks, ships, weapons, drones and networks," 19 July 2018 The last unprofessional intercept of a US Navy aircraft by a Russian jet occurred in January when a Russian Su-27 jet flew within five feet of a US Navy EP-3, forcing the Navy plane to fly through its jet wash. Ryan Browne, CNN, "Russian jet intercepts US Navy plane," 1 May 2018 P-8As have been in the headlines several times in the past several years, being the targets of intercepts by both Chinese and Russian jets as well as participating in searches for a missing Argentinian submarine and the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Brad Lendon, CNN, "What the massive US military budget pays for," 28 Mar. 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

7 Feb 2019

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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