\ 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 Local authorities are continuing to search for the actress in the murky lake from sun up to sun down with the help of various local agencies. Rosy Cordero,, "Heather Morris requests permission from authorities to join search for Naya Rivera," 12 July 2020 The Belton Police Department, the Belton Fire Department and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers search an area along the Leon River and FM 317 after Fort Hood requests their help. USA Today, "Ten weeks: A timeline of the search for Vanessa Guillen," 10 July 2020 Luke Bosso, chief of staff of the Indiana Economic Development Commission, said the state continues to search out and buy personal protective equipment, known as PPE. Ethan May, The Indianapolis Star, "Coronavirus in Indiana: What we learned from the governor's news conference this week," 8 July 2020 Supernovae may be free to search out the fundamental line between neutron stars and black holes after all, removing one onerous stipulation from the astrophysical final exam. Charlie Wood, Scientific American, "Mystery Object Blurs Line between Neutron Stars and Black Holes," 30 June 2020 Aerial searches for Bunker are expected to continue this week, while rescuers will search for Djie and Sabbagh from both the ground and in the air. Fox News, "Searches underway for 3 Mount Rainier hikers missing in separate incidents," 28 June 2020 To help - or to find help - search the database by clicking here. Ebony Day, azcentral, "Nonprofit spotlight: United Food Bank provides hunger relief during the COVID-19 pandemic," 20 June 2020 Frank Drake, then an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, was gearing up to search for radio whispers from faraway civilizations that might be sailing the cosmic sea. Nadia Drake, National Geographic, "My dad launched the quest to find alien intelligence. It changed astronomy.," 19 June 2020 The 3rd Cavalry Regiment is continuing to search for Guillen, Overland said. Abigail Rosenthal, Houston Chronicle, "Fort Hood commander launches sexual harassment investigation in Vanessa Guillen's disappearance," 18 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Oregon Ducks men’s basketball program is still in search of its first commitment in the class of 2021, but may not have to wait much longer. oregonlive, "Jalen Warley, 5-star combo guard and key Oregon Ducks target, sets decision date," 2 Aug. 2020 Meanwhile, the county adopted health measures that led election officials in search of bigger vote centers to allow for social distancing and more space between voting stations. Andrew Oxford, The Arizona Republic, "Voting in Arizona primary outpaces 2018 and 2016; observers watch for signs of what's to come in November," 31 July 2020 Sales slumped off somewhat in 2018 and 2019, but they are expected to continue to rise as Americans emerge from their spring quarantines in search of safe leisure travel. al, "Hot tubs, fishing ponds and high-tech: Alabama RV parks modernize during coronavirus," 31 July 2020 Jim Crow America in search of his missing father (Michael Kenneth Williams). Lisa Respers France, CNN, "What's streaming in August," 30 July 2020 Many in the travel and tourism sectors are looking to migrate to other industries in search of a stable income, added Sen. Niharika Sharma, Quartz India, "India’s Covid-19 tourism slump is putting over 85 million jobs at risk," 28 July 2020 Brazilians generally are celebrating the opportunity to contribute to the global search for a vaccine — and looking to capitalize on a potential winner — rather than griping at being used as international guinea pigs., "Brazil, ravaged by the coronavirus, becomes key testing ground for vaccine," 3 July 2020 The horrific discovery brought a tragic end to the months-long search for the two Idaho children. Joel Shannon, USA TODAY, "Lori Vallow, mom of missing Idaho kids who were found dead, faces new charges," 30 June 2020 And after hearing Carol and Angie's story, the focus of Usry's documentary changed dramatically to Carol Dodge's search for her daughter's killer. CBS News, "How a discarded cigarette led to an arrest in Idaho teen Angie Dodge's cold case murder," 27 June 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

4 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Search.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 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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