1 of 2


searched; searching; searches

transitive verb

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

intransitive verb

: to look or inquire carefully
searched for the papers
: to make painstaking investigation or examination
searchability noun
searchable adjective
searcher noun
searchingly adverb


2 of 2


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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
The National Park Service said more than 20 rangers, including the park’s special response team, were searching for Fussner and working to protect people by the early hours of that day. Thao Nguyen, USA TODAY, 11 July 2024 Police are searching for a man and his two children after the mother of the children was found dead in a Sacramento, Calif., home — and authorities believe the father's vehicle has crossed the border into Mexico. Becca Longmire, Peoplemag, 10 July 2024
During the search, DuBois did not wish to speak to investigators, according to the affidavit. Aqeel Hisham, USA TODAY, 12 July 2024 After Officials Issue State’s First Ebony Alert: 'A Real Difference' The Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Hall County Fire Rescue led water searches, and the Georgia State Patrol (GSP) carried out aerial searches. Charna Flam, Peoplemag, 11 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for search 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'search.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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-

First Known Use


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


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

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

Dictionary Entries Near search

Cite this Entry

“Search.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
: to go through or look carefully and thoroughly in an effort to find or discover something
search a room
search for a lost child
: to look in the pockets or the clothing of for something hidden
search an arrested person
: to find or come to know by or as if by careful investigation or examination
usually used with out
: to use a computer to find information in (as a database, network, or website)
searcher noun
searchingly adverb


2 of 2 noun
: an act of searching : an attempt to get, find, or seek out

Legal Definition


1 of 2 noun
: 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
: 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)
: an examination of a public record or registry see also title search


2 of 2 transitive verb
: 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
searcher noun

More from Merriam-Webster on search

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