\ ˈsərch \
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 \ noun
searchable \ˈsər-chə-bəl \ adjective
searcher noun
searchingly \ˈsər-chiŋ-lē \ adverb

Examples of search in a Sentence


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.


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

One of these searching souls will be left holding the nebulous prize by book’s end. Terry Hong, The Christian Science Monitor, "'What We Were Promised' depicts post-Mao China in a deft debut novel set in Shanghai," 13 July 2018 Since then, search efforts have continued, especially in the Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures; Hiroshima has been hit the hardest. Emily Bloch, Teen Vogue, "Floods in Japan Leave at Least 176 People Dead," 11 July 2018 The acquisition is designed to help GlobalListings increase its influence in the real estate analysis and search space. Dylan Jackson, miamiherald, "Miami-California deal is looking to create the only real-estate website you need," 2 July 2018 More than 2,900 French police, soldiers and detectives fanned out across the country, searching vehicles at border crossings and toll booths and poring over cellphone records to find the escapee, Redoine Faïd. Sam Schechner, WSJ, "Yes, Hollywood Did Influence That Helicopter Jailbreak in France," 2 July 2018 No signs have been found of the missing man, and search efforts were suspended Thursday until new evidence of his location is discovered. Laurel Andrews, Anchorage Daily News, "California man missing after raft flips in Katmai National Park," 22 June 2018 Anadolu said the coast guard was also searching for another migrant who was reported missing by the group. Fox News, "The Latest: Italy demands Malta rescue 450 migrants at sea," 13 July 2018 Wildlife trappers are still searching for the alligator in Lawne Lake, which is in Barnett Park off West Colonial Drive, FWC spokesman Chad Weber said. Michael Williams,, "Nesting gator bit man in Barnett Park, FWC confirms," 13 July 2018 Authorities are searching for four women who allegedly attacked an Applebee’s waitress, stabbed her and stole her tips, the McDonough Police Department said. Raisa Habersham, ajc, "Cops: 4 women punch, stab Applebee’s waitress, then steal her tip money," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Pellegrino, then 57, objected to the invasiveness of the search, but conditions deteriorated and she was later jailed for about 18 hours, the papers show. NBC News, "TSA screeners have immunity from flier abuse claims, appeals court rules," 11 July 2018 What is John Giannandrea, Google’s former head of search and AI, going to do at Apple? James Vincent, The Verge, "Apple’s new AI chief might actually be the right person to fix Siri," 11 July 2018 Meanwhile, widespread shortages of food and medicine and runaway inflation are sending masses of Venezuelans search of a better life abroad. Scott Smith, Fox News, "Mexico's new president could help ease pressure on Venezuela," 9 July 2018 Locals in Mae Sai and across the country have been glued to their television screens, watching every twist and turn of this dramatic search and rescue now in its 17th day. Shibani Mahtani, Washington Post, "Rescue efforts resume for remaining 8 boys and their coach trapped in the Thai cave," 9 July 2018 Locals in Mae Sai and across the country have closely watching every twist and turn of the dramatic search on television. Shibani Mahtani,, "Rescuers bring 4 more Thai boys out of flooded cave," 9 July 2018 Mitchell argued the draw violated his constitutional rights to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. Todd Richmond, The Seattle Times, "Wisconsin court OKs unconscious drunken drivers’ blood draws," 3 July 2018 In other words, scientists need to broaden the scope of the search to account for the possibility that extraterrestrial life may have nothing in common with life on Earth. Hanneke Weitering, Scientific American, "How Theoretical Physicists Can Help Find Aliens," 28 June 2018 Menet Aero uses drones in aerial inspections of oil and gas pipelines and other utility lines as well as in support of search and rescue efforts and other emergency government operations. Don Behm, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Drone operators raise concerns about Milwaukee County's proposed ban of devices in parks and parkways," 22 June 2018

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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Statistics for search

Last Updated

14 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for search

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

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More Definitions for search



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 \
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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Comments on search

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


characteristic trappings or dress

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