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

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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

Verb Detectives have been intercepting her mail. The police intercepted him as he was walking out.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Hill would sometimes intercept her mother when the nursing home took her to a doctor’s office for an appointment. Los Angeles Times, "There’s only one way to join this exclusive COVID-19 club," 25 Dec. 2020 Opponents can force incompletions, sack him and even intercept him. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "Nobody Can Stop Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs," 13 Dec. 2020 Without any opposition, Sweat shot his hands into the air to deflect and intercept a Dalton pass intended for Elliott in the right flat. Michael Gehlken, Dallas News, "In a season of relentless injuries, losing Zack Martin, Cam Erving hits Cowboys’ battered offensive line hard," 26 Nov. 2020 Instead, Highsmith retreated, and was there to intercept a floating pass to tight end Mark Andrews. Jonas Shaffer,, "The Ravens gave a game away. Now the Steelers could be the least of their problems.," 1 Nov. 2020 Jets in Alaska scrambled repeatedly this year to intercept Russian aircraft moving toward U.S. airspace. Mike Baker, New York Times, "‘Are We Getting Invaded?’ U.S. Boats Faced Russian Aggression Near Alaska," 27 Oct. 2020 The Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act also gave states the ability to intercept federal tax refunds and redirect them toward repayment plans. Ava Kofman, oregonlive, "Small error leaves out-of-work Washington state man with demand to pay back $14k in unemployment benefits," 31 Oct. 2020 The Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act also gave states the ability to intercept federal tax refunds and redirect them toward repayment plans. Ava Kofman, ProPublica, "He Made a Minor Mistake Filling Out an Unemployment Form. Then the State Demanded $14,990 From Him.," 29 Oct. 2020 This increases the chances that a determined hacker could intercept a key and access a meeting uninvited. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "How to turn on Zoom’s new end-to-end encryption—and why you may not want to," 26 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun It should be noted that a successful intercept might not necessarily include an explosion of the rocket's warhead. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Watch This Gatling Gun Engage Rockets Over Baghdad," 22 Dec. 2020 The intercept was observed using infrared cameras, with the interceptor kill vehicle smashing into the incoming warhead. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The Navy Has Shot Down an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile for the First Time," 17 Nov. 2020 Few air defenders have ever seen both sides of an intercontinental ballistic missile intercept. Abraham Mahshie, Washington Examiner, "North Korea’s big nuke doesn’t scare the 100th Missile Defense Brigade," 29 Oct. 2020 The intercept took place at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The Army's Big, Dumb Guns Aren't Dumb Anymore (and Now They Can Shoot Down Planes)," 10 Sep. 2020 The incident was reportedly the fourth close intercept between U.S and Russian forces since April. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Watch Armed Russian Fighters Dangerously Buzz a U.S. Navy Patrol Jet," 27 May 2020 Hong Kong’s foreign business community, meanwhile, worries about how the law undercuts the territory’s independent judiciary, and about its authorization of covert surveillance and the intercept of communications. Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor, "Hong Kongers fear drastic law marks ‘before’ and ‘after’," 1 July 2020 The intercepts come less than two weeks after U.S. bombers were met by Russian jets over the Black Sea. CBS News, "U.S. jets intercept Russian nuclear-capable bombers off Alaska, NORAD says," 10 June 2020 Officials must provide a reason to view the information, like trying to better understand the significance of an electronic intercept or the strategy of a potentially adversarial government, Mr. Aftergood said. New York Times, "Intelligence Chief Declassifies List of Obama-Era Names in Unusual Step," 12 May 2020

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 entry 1

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Time Traveler for intercept

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for intercept

Last Updated

14 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Intercept.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for intercept


How to pronounce intercept (audio)

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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