\ 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


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

Vazquez was taken to a cruiser and searched before being placed in the rear seat. Alyssa Lukpat,, "Lynn man arrested for drugs, gun, and driving a motorcycle on learner’s permit," 17 July 2019 Humankind has always been on the move, fleeing a peril or searching for something better. Susan Goldberg, National Geographic, "How we’re covering migration, one of this century’s critical stories," 17 July 2019 Consumers who searched reservation systems operated by some online travel agencies ran into similar issues. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "Hotels promise a super low rate — then hit you with fees," 17 July 2019 They were taken to a room where their possessions were searched, laid out on a table and bagged. CBS News, "ACLU files lawsuit against Trump administration asylum rules," 17 July 2019 Federal and local investigators searched Koester’s farm at 16470 N.W. Meadowlake Road in late November and again earlier this year in Yamhill County., "New federal indictment filed against Yamhill County photographer accused of producing child porn," 17 July 2019 Many baseball fans know how the father searched for a house with a basement at least 60 feet, six inches long; charted the son’s velocity; honed his focus. Stephanie Apstein,, "— Roy Halladay (@RoyHalladay)," 17 July 2019 Both men are patted down and the female officer goes through Isham’s pockets searching for his ID. Cameron Knight,, "Lawsuit: Realtor, homebuyer viewing house illegally held by police after 911 call," 16 July 2019 House said, adding that some officers started searching as early as 8:30 a.m. and kept working until midnight. Sanya Mansoor, Time, "2-Year-Old Girl, Lost for Over 24 Hours in Michigan Woods, Found Safe," 16 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Auburn is entering training camp next month in search of a starting quarterback. Sam Blum |,, "Gus Malzahn doesn’t want a two-quarterback offense," 18 July 2019 In search of an immediate backup catcher, the Reds signed Ryan Lavarnway to a one-year deal. Bobby Nightengale,, "After injuries, the Cincinnati Reds' new catching tandem: Juan Graterol and Ryan Lavarnway," 18 July 2019 But that effort has just sent enterprising traffickers out in search of new routes. Joshua Berlinger, CNN, "Asia's meth trade is worth an estimated $61B as region becomes 'playground' for drug gangs," 18 July 2019 In a search of the home, deputies also found a red stain on a light switch in the master bathroom and a burn pile in the backyard that was allegedly used to destroy papers, the affidavit states. Christine Pelisek,, "Air Force Major Allegedly Tried to Hide Wife's Body With Remains of Dead Cow," 17 July 2019 But to me, right now, this is a solution in search of a problem for La Cañada. Sara Cardine, La Cañada Valley Sun, "La Cañada Council delays regulating e-scooters, eases concerns about sewer surcharge," 17 July 2019 The diver for hire regularly patrols the Comal, Guadalupe and San Marcos rivers on his own in search of phones, wedding rings, sunglasses and other valuables accidentally dropped into the murky drink by river tubers. Richard A. Marini,, "New Braunfels scuba diver hunts for treasures lost by tubers," 16 July 2019 The great quantities of freshwater have forced marine life further out into the Gulf in search of water with more salinity. Fox News, "Hurricane Barry rattles Gulf Coast fishermen already reeling from rough season," 16 July 2019 From Milwaukee to Ghana in search of identity And among black mental health researchers, Smith has gone further than most to understand the generational roots of his own pain. John Schmid, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "This veteran sports psychologist has worked with the Packers and Bucks. Now he's speaking up about racism," 16 July 2019

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

20 Jul 2019

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 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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with search

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for search

Spanish Central: Translation of search

Nglish: Translation of search for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of search for Arabic Speakers

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).


something desired as essential

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