\ 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 The world’s largest house party is juxtaposed with risk-taking Spring Break revelers searching for a party on the beaches of Florida or Texas, or the Cherry Blossom faithful descending on Washington, D.C.’s tidal basin to witness peak bloom. Tasneem Alsultan, National Geographic, "THE BEST OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX," 23 Mar. 2020 For undemanding youngsters searching for a bridge into high fantasy, The Letter for the King is certainly inoffensive and occasionally solid, polished fun. Isaac Feldberg, Fortune, "What to stream (and skip) on Netflix and Amazon Prime this weekend," 20 Mar. 2020 Or pore over the recent statements by IOC President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe searching for clues about whether postponement has become more likely. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, "Opinion: USOPC leadership needs to show actual leadership and call on IOC to postpone," 20 Mar. 2020 As a result, more than 1 million children from elementary through high school won't be in class, leaving school districts struggling to educate them and some parents searching for child care. Gina Barton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Coronavirus Wisconsin: Shortages in testing supplies and blood, closures pile up," 17 Mar. 2020 Grenadier’s low-maintenance villas in Riverset are ideal for empty nesters and retirees searching for a ‘smart-sized’ home, said the spokesperson. Dallas News, "Builder celebrates grand opening of Riverset," 15 Mar. 2020 That could lead to manufacturers searching for a new supplies of raw materials. Emily Bamforth, cleveland, "Businesses hit by coronavirus shortages can’t immediately use Ohio companies to fill the gap," 10 Mar. 2020 After 11 years on Mission Street, hackerspace Noisebridge searching for new home. • Restaurant review: Soulful pastas to sing about at Oakland’s Belotti Ristorante. Taylor Kate Brown,, "Bay Briefing: How transit is preparing for coronavirus," 6 Mar. 2020 The shooting happened that Wednesday afternoon in the 100 block of 14th Avenue N.W. Investigators said Myers had been at the home searching for his girlfriend. Carol Robinson |, al, "Man pleads guilty in slaying of shooting victim who crashed while driving himself to the hospital," 4 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Mearan was seen leaving his home in an SUV as investigators continued their search. Kevin Grasha,, "BCI seeks tips on 'suspicious activity involving Michael Mearan,' subject of sex trafficking investigation," 27 Mar. 2020 And learning about McCrear's story has given the family valuable information in their search to fill in the family tree. Jack Guy, CNN, "'Remarkable' woman discovered as last known survivor of transatlantic slave trade," 26 Mar. 2020 But Pima County doesn't appear to have attempted even rudimentary contact tracing, despite having a group of elderly bridge players willing to make their search easier by providing players' contact information. Mary Jo Pitzl, azcentral, "Hundreds were at same Arizona event as coronavirus patient. 2 weeks later, officials haven't contacted them," 26 Mar. 2020 Four Coloradans have now lost their lives since 2016 in their search for it, CBS Denver reported. CBS News, "Another person dies looking for famous hidden treasure in Rocky Mountains," 26 Mar. 2020 Lee County Sheriff deputies, a helicopter, dogs and volunteer firefighters concentrated their search for Evelyn Vadie Sides near Lee Road 66 north of Lee Road 65, officials said. NBC News, "Deputies searching for missing 4-year-old girl in Alabama," 26 Mar. 2020 Her first online search was to learn more about the company that made OxyContin—Purdue Pharma. Gerald Posner, Wired, "The Mom Who Took on Purdue Pharma for Its OxyContin Marketing," 23 Mar. 2020 Follow this expert advice: Start your search: Ask a friend. Kaitlyn Pirie, Good Housekeeping, "How to Find the Best Therapist for You, According to Mental Health Experts," 18 Mar. 2020 Certainly, our search for the coveted rear-drive experience did not benefit our overall fuel economy, but even in our steady 75-mph highway fuel-economy test, the Aviator returned 22 mpg, missing the EPA's highway number by 4 mpg. David Beard, Car and Driver, "Tested: 2020 Lincoln Aviator Reserve Wants Us To Grow Up," 18 Mar. 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

29 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Search.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Apr. 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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