in·​ter·​cept | \ ˌin-tər-ˈsept How to pronounce intercept (audio) \
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 How to pronounce intercept (audio) \

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

Jake Fromm was intercepted on a downfield throw by P.J. Locke III on the Longhorns 17. Brett Martel, The Seattle Times, "Georgia done in by unusual rash of miscues in Sugar Bowl," 1 Jan. 2019 The Food and Drug Administration is deploying more inspectors at international mail facilities to intercept packages of fentanyl. Carla K. Johnson, The Seattle Times, "Q&A: Feds tackle opioid epidemic, but is it helping?," 28 Jan. 2019 According to USA Today, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) sent out planes to try to intercept the aircraft and direct the man’s flight path over the Pacific Ocean. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Airline Employee Crashes Plane Taken From Seattle-Tacoma Airport," 11 Aug. 2018 Phil Jones failed to intercept the pass which led to Hazard's goal. James Ellingworth,, "Belgium win 3rd place with victory over England," 14 July 2018 Imperial Beach, Chula Vista and the Port of San Diego sued the federal government in March to force more investment in infrastructure along the border to intercept polluted flows. Joshua Emerson Smith,, "Surfrider says county's Tijuana River Valley Regional Park "too dirty" for planned campground," 3 July 2018 But in recent years, a more serious issue has emerged around its ability to intercept calls, texts and data. Craig Timberg, Houston Chronicle, "How spies can use your cellphone to find you - and eavesdrop on your calls and texts, too," 30 May 2018 Midfielder Kealia Ohai – arguably Houston’s best player against the Pride the last time the two teams met – intercepted an errant middle third pass from Pride midfielder Alanna Kennedy and played the ball forward for Daly. Jordan Culver, Pro Soccer USA, "Orlando Pride falls 3-1 to host Houston Dash," 12 July 2018 Cornerback Lorenzo Doss intercepted backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert. Jourdan Rodrigue, charlotteobserver, "Turners and returners, a 60-yard field goal, plus more Panthers OTAs observations," 4 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

China disputed the account and said its aircraft had made a legal intercept. Jake Maxwell Watts, WSJ, "Defense Chiefs Seek Friendlier Skies Over Asia’s Military Flashpoints," 20 Oct. 2018 Laura Grego, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said before Greaves’ announcement that a successful intercept did not mean the missile defense system is fully ready to defend the U.S. in combat. Robert Burns, The Seattle Times, "Pentagon: Missile defense test succeeds in shootdown," 26 Mar. 2019 Although some details are classified, it was long assumed that the Air Force would salvo 4-5 GBIs per incoming warhead to ensure a successful intercept. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Pentagon Claims Success in New Missile Defense Test," 26 Mar. 2019 This intercept seems safe, but others can be quite unsafe. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Watch a Russian Jet Fighter Intercept a U.S. Air Force Spy Plane," 7 Mar. 2019 Foreign intercepts showed that four countries — the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico — viewed Kushner as a White House official who might be easily influenced because of the debt, The Post reported this week. Michael Kranish, Washington Post, "Jared Kushner’s troubles include an impending $1.2 billion company debt," 1 Mar. 2018 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

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

16 May 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 How to pronounce intercept (audio) \
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).


to mark by some ceremony or observation

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