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 Trinity had a final chance, regaining possession with 3:25 left, but a Vazzano pass was intercepted by Ben Thaw to end its chances. Staff Report,, "Wesleyan caps 8-win season with 28-20 victory over Trinity," 9 Nov. 2019 Gruden’s faith didn’t hurt him Thursday: One play after his unsuccessful challenge, Rivers threw a pass that was intercepted by safety Erik Harris. Matt Kawahara,, "Raiders’ Jon Gruden on a cold streak with challenges," 7 Nov. 2019 After forcing Tennessee’s first punt two plays into the second quarter, Johnston once more sailed a pass on first down which was intercepted by Thompson. Evan Dudley, al, "Johnston’s 4 turnovers end UAB upset bid at Tennessee," 3 Nov. 2019 One second-quarter possession could foreshadow what was to come for UH, as Clayton Tune was intercepted by UCF cornerback Nevelle Clarke at the goal line with 10:16 left. Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle, "Explosive third quarter lifts UCF over UH," 2 Nov. 2019 Slovis intercepted by Verone McKinley III, flag on Troy Dye for unnecessary roughness on hit on Slovis gives Oregon the ball at its 40. oregonlive, "Oregon Ducks rout USC Trojans 56-24: Live updates recap," 2 Nov. 2019 Mayfield’s pass deflected off Landry and Griffin and was intercepted by safety Tedric Thompson. Scott Patsko, cleveland, "What’s the story with Baker Mayfield’s 11 interceptions this season?," 22 Oct. 2019 Early in the second quarter, with Detroit leading 14-7, Cousins threw a pass to Johnson in the end zone that was deflected by Justin Coleman and intercepted by Tracy Walker. Chris Tomasson, Twin Cities, "Adam Thielen ‘optimistic’ consecutive games streak won’t end at 87," 21 Oct. 2019 The two locked up after Ryan’s pass off Mohamed Sanu’s hands was intercepted by Cory Littleton deep in Atlanta territory with the Rams leading 20-3. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Rams snap skid by beating Falcons 37-10 as Ryan hurts ankle," 20 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 The last unsafe intercept by Russia occurred late last year, in November 2018, over the Black Sea. CBS News, "Russian jet conducts unsafe intercept of U.S. Navy plane," 5 June 2019 Somewhat similarly, during the transition period Kushner attempted to set up a secret communications channel with the Kremlin, according to intercepts of the Russian ambassador. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, "Is Jared Kushner using the White House as his own personal boardroom?," 1 Mar. 2018 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

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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Statistics for intercept

Last Updated

14 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for intercept

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

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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

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


not being in agreement or harmony

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