\ ˈsərch How to pronounce search (audio) \
searched; searching; searches

Definition of search

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to look into or over carefully or thoroughly in an effort to find or discover something: such as
a : to examine in seeking something searched the north field
b : to look through or explore by inspecting possible places of concealment or investigating suspicious circumstances
c : to read thoroughly : check especially : to examine a public record or register for information about search land titles
d : to examine for articles concealed on the person
e : to look at as if to discover or penetrate intention or nature
2 : to uncover, find, or come to know by inquiry or scrutiny usually used with out

intransitive verb

1 : to look or inquire carefully searched for the papers
2 : to make painstaking investigation or examination



Definition of search (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : an act of searching a search for food go in search of help
b : an act of boarding and inspecting a ship on the high seas in exercise of right of search
2 obsolete : a party that searches
3 : power or range of penetrating also : a penetrating effect

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Other Words from search


searchability \ ˌsər-​chə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce searchability (audio) \ noun
searchable \ ˈsər-​chə-​bəl How to pronounce searchable (audio) \ adjective
searcher noun
searchingly \ ˈsər-​chiŋ-​lē How to pronounce searchingly (audio) \ adverb

Examples of search in a Sentence

Verb They haven't found him yet, so they have to keep searching. The police searched her for concealed weapons. He was searched by the guard before he was allowed to enter the courtroom. The software allows you to search thousands of sites at the same time. She searched for information on the Web. He searched her face, hoping to see some glimmer of emotion. Noun We will begin a search for a new manager this week. I performed a search for the file. I did a Web search for restaurants in that area.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Mao was raised by his adoptive parents as Gu Ningning, without knowing his birth parents had been searching for him for more than three decades, the report said. Nectar Gan, CNN, "Facial recognition used to reunite missing child with family after 32 years," 19 May 2020 With black players making up approximately 70 percent of NFL rosters, the league continues to search for ways to get more minorities into coaching and front office positions. Scott Patsko, cleveland, "NFL tables proposal to incentivize minority hirings of coaches, front office personnel, according to report," 19 May 2020 The News’ photojournalists spend a lot of time searching for moments of togetherness among human beings. Dallas News, "Photo Essay: The Space Between Us," 16 May 2020 And governments and foundations should continue to search for other ways to help ensure students continue to learn while not in school. Rob Sampson, Quartz India, "India’s coronavirus lockdown has put the spotlight back on television as an ed-tech tool," 13 May 2020 New York Knicks — Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State The Knicks have been searching for stability at the point guard position, and Haliburton appears to be one of the surest bets in the lottery. Omari Sankofa Ii, Detroit Free Press, "Tankathon 4.0: If Detroit Pistons drop, they could get a perfect boom-or-bust pick," 13 May 2020 The retailer has been searching for assets to back a loan that would finance a potential bankruptcy, Bloomberg previously reported. Jeremy Hill,, "J.C. Penney Skips Another Payment, Enters Five-Day Grace Period," 10 May 2020 Constantly hungry, Pless spent that spring searching for food. Robert Clark, National Geographic, "‘They discriminated against us, cursed at us, just because we were refugees … I was nine—the war wasn’t my fault.’," 6 May 2020 The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office spent days searching for the body of 27-year-old Saul Gallegos Ruiz, without success. oregonlive, "Idaho couple, experts at finding drowning victims, offers resolution for Oregon families," 6 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The court was established by Congress through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to approve electronic surveillance, physical search and certain other forms of investigative actions for foreign intelligence purposes. Eric Litke, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Senators did not OK 'access to your internet history without obtaining a warrant'," 21 May 2020 Health authorities say the country’s meticulous search for new cases is inflating the tally. John Follain,, "Safety Failures, ‘Bad Luck’ Fuel Italy’s Coronavirus Surge," 19 May 2020 Joe Biden's search for a running mate is likely well underway, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. Caitlin Conant, CBS News, "2020 Daily Trail Markers: Biden's search for a VP is likely underway," 19 May 2020 According to a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Internet searches for unproven coronavirus cures like chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine have been on the rise since Trump's first mention of the drug on March 19. Elizabeth Gulino,, "Trump Says He Has Been Taking Hydroxychloroquine “Every Day”," 18 May 2020 Online searches for homes and apartments have increased in recent weeks. Steve Brown, Dallas News, "Developer and builder attitudes see record slide because of pandemic," 18 May 2020 Mike Brown, an influential champion of the Planet Nine theory, is leading a search for the elusive body that could end the debate at any time. Charlie Wood, Popular Science, "Planet Nine might not be a planet at all," 14 May 2020 Levin, along with John Maraganore, BIO’s former board chair, and Paul Hastings, who will succeed Levin in 2021, led the search for a new CEO. Nicholas Florko, STAT, "Biotech’s new chief lobbyist says she’s a social justice advocate. Will the industry walk the walk?," 14 May 2020 So far, two are available on her website and on YouTube (search for Zai Divecha paper tutorial). Flora Tsapovsky,, "4 Bay Area artists find shelter from coronavirus crisis in creating. You can too," 7 May 2020

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for search


Middle English cerchen, from Anglo-French cercher, sercher to travel about, investigate, search, from Late Latin circare to go about, from Latin circum round about — more at circum-

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Time Traveler for search

Time Traveler

The first known use of search was in the 14th century

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Statistics for search

Last Updated

24 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Search.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for search


How to pronounce search (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of search

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to carefully look for someone or something : to try to find someone or something
: to carefully look for someone or something in (something)
: to carefully look through the clothing of (someone) for something that may be hidden



English Language Learners Definition of search (Entry 2 of 2)

: an attempt to find someone or something : the act or process of looking for someone or something
: an attempt to find information in a database, network, Web site, etc., by using a computer program


\ ˈsərch How to pronounce search (audio) \
searched; searching

Kids Definition of search

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to go through or look around carefully and thoroughly in an effort to find something … she searched the nearby shore for signs of an intruder.— E. B. White, The Trumpet of the Swan
2 : to carefully look for someone or something
3 : to look in the pockets or the clothing of (someone) for something hidden



Kids Definition of search (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act or instance of looking for someone or something



Legal Definition of search

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an exploratory investigation (as of an area or person) by a government agent that intrudes on an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy and is conducted usually for the purpose of finding evidence of unlawful activity or guilt or to locate a person warrantless searches are invalid unless they fall within narrowly drawn exceptionsState v. Mahone, 701 P.2d 171 (1985) — see also exigent circumstances, plain view sense 2, probable cause at cause sense 2, reasonable suspicion, search warrant at warrant — compare seizure

Note: The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and requires that a warrant may issue only upon probable cause and that the warrant must particularly describe the place to be searched. Some searches, such as a search incident to an arrest, have been held to be valid without a warrant.

administrative search
: an inspection or search carried out under a regulatory or statutory scheme especially in public or commercial premises and usually to enforce compliance with regulations or laws pertaining to health, safety, or security one of the fundamental principles of administrative searches is that the government may not use an administrative inspection scheme as a pretext to search for evidence of criminal violationsPeople v. Madison, 520 N.E.2d 374 (1988)

called also administrative inspection, inspection, regulatory search

— see also probable cause at cause sense 2

Note: The U.S. Supreme Court held in Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523 (1967), that a reasonable administrative search may be conducted upon a showing of probable cause which is less stringent than that required for a search incident to a criminal investigation. The Court stated that the reasonableness of the search can only be determined by “balancing the need to search against the invasion which the search entails.” Cases following Camara have stated that the probable cause requirement is fulfilled by showing that the search meets reasonable administrative standards established in a nonarbitrary regulatory scheme.

border search
: a search made of a person upon crossing into the U.S. at a border or its equivalent (as the airport at which the person arrives in the U.S.)

Note: Probable cause is not required for a border search.

consent search
: a warrantless search conducted upon the voluntarily given consent of a person having authority over the place or things to be searched
inventory search
: a warrantless search (as of an impounded automobile) conducted for the purpose of placing personal property in safekeeping to prevent loss of the property and claims against police for such loss
protective search
: a search (as a frisk) conducted by a law enforcement officer for the purpose of ensuring against threats to safety (as from a concealed weapon) or sometimes to prevent the destruction of evidence
regulatory search
: administrative search in this entry
shakedown search \ ˈshāk-​ˌdau̇n-​ \
: a search for illicit or contraband material (as weapons or drugs) in prisoners' cells that is usually random and warrantless

Note: In Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517 (1984), the U.S. Supreme Court held that Fourth Amendment protections do not extend to searches of prisoners' cells.

strip search
: a search for something concealed on a person conducted after removal of the person's clothing
2 : an act of boarding and inspecting a ship on the high seas in exercise of the right to do so under international law (as in time of war)
3 : an examination of a public record or registry — see also title search

Legal Definition of search (Entry 2 of 2)

: to conduct a search of search the premises search a person search a title

intransitive verb

: to conduct a search search for drugs in a school locker

Other Words from search

searcher noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on search

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for search

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with search

Spanish Central: Translation of search

Nglish: Translation of search for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of search for Arabic Speakers

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