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

And Reshad Jones intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass intended for Danny Amendola that fellow safety T.J. McDonald broke up in the middle of the field. Omar Kelly,, "Alonso's absence gives Anthony, Allen, and Hull chance to work with Dolphins' first-team defense," 6 June 2018 The Padres’ seventh-round pick intercepted three passes last fall. Jeff Sanders,, "Padres place premium on athleticism in Day 2 of draft," 5 June 2018 According to court records, the Federal Bureau of Prisons intercepted a package of the cannabinoid Adb-Fubinaca that was disguised as legal mail and sent to prison inmates in April of last year. Jay Weaver, miamiherald, "Inmates liked being served these legal papers. They were soaked with synthetic pot.," 31 May 2018 Detectives recently intercepted 400 ounces near Churchill Downs and 560 ounces near Pikes Point. Beth Warren, The Courier-Journal, "Meth, deadlier than ever, could be the 'next phase of drug epidemic'," 3 May 2018 More recently, Greek fighter jets intercepted a Turkish drone hovering above Rhodes. The Economist, "Turkey and Greece ratchet up tension in the Mediterranean," 12 Apr. 2018 Feeling the pressure, the 6-foot-4, 219-pound gunslinger threw a pass late over the middle that was quickly intercepted. Atreya Verma, azcentral, "Cardinals' Ivy League rookies eager to prove themselves at 'grown man's' level," 17 June 2018 Separately, Syria's state news agency conceded that at least one ammunition storage site had been hit, but claimed that the other strikes had been intercepted. The Washington Post,, "Israel launches massive military strike against Iranian targets in Syria," 10 May 2018 None of the missiles was intercepted; in fact, Syrian defenders didn't launch any anti-aircraft missiles until after all 105 missiles had detonated on their targets, according to DOD officials. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "What the latest strike on Syria succeeded at (and what it didn’t)," 18 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 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

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

14 Nov 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

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


a private place of worship

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