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

And given their close positions to Russia, the systems have significantly less time to detect, lock onto and attempt to intercept the missiles. Julian E. Barnes, New York Times, "NATO Considers Missile Defense Upgrade, Risking Further Tensions With Russia," 5 July 2019 Royal Air Force jets in Estonia took to the sky to intercept Russian military aircraft for the second time in one day, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense said. Fox News, "Royal Air Force jets scramble to intercept Russian planes," 26 June 2019 Crucially, if an intruder were to intercept the qubits, Alice and Bob could detect the intrusion, discard the qubits and start over—theoretically continuing until no one is eavesdropping on the quantum channel. Anil Ananthaswamy, Scientific American, "The Quantum Internet Is Emerging, One Experiment at a Time," 19 June 2019 Many existing air defense missiles, designed to shoot aircraft and cruise missiles, are likely unable to intercept hypersonic weapons. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "This New Hypersonic Missile Would Travel Faster Than Mach 5," 18 June 2019 An initial proposal would keep the school’s new library, which was built after the attack, and construct a new school on the existing campus but further from nearby streets to give security more room to intercept intruders. Kathleen Foody, Fortune, "'They Want to Experience It.' Why Columbine Might Be Demolished 20 Years After School Shooting," 14 June 2019 These changes call for a major revamp of the US immigration system, which was designed to intercept and quickly deport Mexican men. Ana Campoy, Quartz, "The typical undocumented immigrant has been in the US for over a decade," 12 June 2019 The Prussians bringhawks, and begin trying to intercept the messages that way. María Gainza, Harper's magazine, "Both Sides Now," 10 May 2019 Jackson made 70 tackles, intercepted two passes and recovered three fumbles in 2017. Mark Inabinett,, "Chicago Bears like the intangibles that came with Eddie Jackson," 26 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 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

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

11 Jul 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

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characterized by aphorism

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