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 Martinez threw two touchdowns and had a pass intercepted by freshman safety Nick Cross. Don Markus,, "Maryland, Leake fumble their way to sixth straight loss, embarrassed by struggling Nebraska, 54-7," 23 Nov. 2019 But heavy ice in the Sea of Bothnia kept the Kyros in port until May 1917, and when the ship finally began its journey, it was intercepted in the Sea of Aland by the German submarine UC-58. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Tsar Nicholas II’s Last Shipment of Booze Recovered From the Baltic Sea," 13 Nov. 2019 Yellen did an admirable job in relief, completing 28 of his 44 passes for 292 yards, four touchdowns with two passes intercepted. Michelle Gardner, azcentral, "ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels' status against Oregon State still undecided," 11 Nov. 2019 Last season he was intercepted five times on 425 attempts. Nick Moyle, Houston Chronicle, "College football preview: No. 16 Kansas State at Texas," 8 Nov. 2019 Maine South had the ball at the Loyola 3-yard line in the second quarter, but had a pass intercepted and then a field-goal attempted was blocked. Dan Shalin,, "Maine South’s football season ends — again — at the hands of Loyola in a Class 8A opener; ‘This stung really badly’," 4 Nov. 2019 They were intercepted three times, twice by South senior Jayden Heartwell-McKoy. Author: Josh Reed, Anchorage Daily News, "South Wolverines capture Alaska state football championship," 27 Oct. 2019 His backup, Andrew Marty, threw only one pass -- intercepted by Amir Riep. Stephen Means, cleveland, "Ohio State football’s defense had one message going into its game against Northwestern: No Slippage," 19 Oct. 2019 Game ball: Huntsville’s Hedden had a solid game despite twice having passes intercepted by Kirby. Reports, al, "Huntsville HS football: St. John Paul II, Hunstville High earn wins," 19 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun According to court documents, confidential sources were used along with GPS tracking of vehicles and wire intercepts of cell phone communications. Cameron Knight,, "37 arrested, 100 pounds of cocaine and more seized in Tri-State Jewelers drug sting," 19 Nov. 2019 Those countries cooperate extremely closely, sharing communications intercepts and other intelligence. Ken Dilanian, NBC News, "Top Dem says AG Barr is endangering relationships with key U.S. allies," 3 Oct. 2019 Clowney intercepts deflected pass by Wright and returns the pick 27 yards to the house! oregonlive, "Seattle Seahawks easily defeat the Arizona Cardinals: Live updates recap, score, stats and more," 29 Sep. 2019 Ratcliffe claimed that the leak came from someone with access to super-sensitive NSA intercepts, which is possible. Jefferson Morley, The New Republic, "Democrats Are Trapped in Trump’s “Deep State” War," 16 Sep. 2019 Part of it relied on communications intercepts and human intelligence, the official said. Author: Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Anchorage Daily News, "US got key source out of Russia after election hacking and Trump meeting with Kremlin official," 10 Sep. 2019 Some of that evidence came from incriminating intercepts from the various wiretaps over which agents had for months been listening in on the kingpin and his underlings. Alan Feuer, New York Times, "‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Sentenced to Life in Prison, Ending Notorious Criminal Career," 17 July 2019 ZDNet notes that bugs like these are invaluable to manufacturers of intercept tools and surveillance software, and the right buyer would likely pay millions for access to them before Apple is able to patch its software in defense. Jon Porter, The Verge, "Google discovered several iPhone security flaws, and Apple still hasn’t patched one," 30 July 2019 Assuming that the 60 percent intercept rate is accurate, that is enough to ensure the shoot-down of up to 11 incoming warheads. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Pentagon Claims Success in New Missile Defense Test," 26 Mar. 2019

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

28 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Intercept.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 7 December 2019.

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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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Comments on intercept

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