private investigator


Definition of private investigator 

: a person not a member of a police force who is licensed to do detective work (such as investigation of suspected wrongdoing or searching for missing persons)

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Examples of private investigator in a Sentence

She hired a private investigator to follow her husband. the retired policeman decided to become a private investigator

Recent Examples on the Web

The former private investigator had founded computerized records company CDB Infotek, which condensed public records into digital dossiers, in 1978. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "Men are from cyberspace: this week in tech, 20 years ago," 6 Oct. 2018 The lawyer hired private investigators and scoured cellphone records. Sara Randazzo, WSJ, "How America’s 88,000 Missing People Become Legally Dead," 17 Aug. 2018 The story concerns an LA private investigator named Phil Philips (voiced by Bill Barretta), the first puppet on the LAPD before he was booted from the force after being accused of purposely failing to shoot a puppet perp. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "The Happytime Murders turns raunchy puppet comedy into inexplicably boring dreck," 23 Aug. 2018 The crazed stalker, a 19-year-old, had paid a private investigator to obtain Schaeffer's home address in West Hollywood. Stephanie Nolasco, Fox News, "Rebecca Schaeffer's mother recalls star's tragic death in one-woman show," 18 July 2018 Lucas was missing for more than three months when his father's girlfriend, Emily Glass, led a private investigator on May 24 to his body under a bridge in rural Harvey County. Crimesider Staff, CBS News, "Autopsy: Woman killed self after revealing stepson’s decomposed body," 28 June 2018 The promotional photo taken by the dealership of Walden giving a thumbs-up next to the pickup truck, complete with red bow, helped a private investigator hired by the dealership uncover his true identity, police said. Don Sweeney, sacbee, "Identity theft derails when man poses with ‘his’ new pickup truck, police say," 12 July 2018 The private investigator, William Don Tisaby, was hired by Gardner to work on the invasion-of-privacy case. Jason Hancock, Lindsay Wise, Allison Kite And Joseph Bustos, kansascity, "Greitens vowed he would survive his scandals — until Tuesday. What changed the game?," 30 May 2018 Self was a former police officer himself, and worked as a private investigator, reported the Washington Post. Mark Price, charlotteobserver, "He was a 'church-going family man' up until killing 2 family members at NC restaurant | Charlotte Observer," 21 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'private investigator.' 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 private investigator

1940, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

6 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for private investigator

The first known use of private investigator was in 1940

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More Definitions for private investigator

private investigator


English Language Learners Definition of private investigator

: someone who works as a detective and who is not a member of a police force

private investigator


Legal Definition of private investigator 

: a person not a member of a police force who is licensed to do detective work (as investigation of suspected wrongdoing or searching for missing persons)

More from Merriam-Webster on private investigator

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for private investigator

Spanish Central: Translation of private investigator

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the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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