\ˈsərch \
searched; searching; searches

Definition of search 

(Entry 1 of 4)

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 4)

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

Police cars blocked several streets from traffic while authorities searched the area. Hannah Leone,, "Man in custody after exchanging gunfire with police in South Chicago," 14 July 2018 Pincus and a leading fertility doctor named John Rock more or less stumbled upon the idea behind the Pill while searching for an infertility treatment. Carolyn Todd, Allure, "The History and Evolution of Birth Control in America," 12 July 2018 Officers and trappers were searching with flashlights for the gator. Dan Wine,, "Man suffers 'possible gator bite' at Barnett Park in Orange County, authorities say," 13 July 2018 With Ishmael and Philips gone and no standout running back, the Orange will be searching for threats. Jake Lourim, The Courier-Journal, "Why Louisville football can (and can’t) beat Syracuse," 11 July 2018 Kepler has been searching for planets outside our solar system for nearly a decade. Marcia Dunn, The Seattle Times, "NASA’s Kepler Telescope almost out of fuel, forced to nap," 10 July 2018 On May 17, Armoni went missing and her mother, Bonnie Bruno, had been searching for her ever since. Montana Couser, The Root, "‘I Believe If My Daughter Was a White Girl, They Would Have Taken All My Leads Seriously’: Mother of Missing 16-Year-Old," 5 July 2018 California horse breeding is in a precarious stage searching for stallions who can help replace the likes of Unusual Heat, Lucky Pulpit and Benchmark. Eric Sondheimer,, "Racing! New stallions try to give a boost in California," 2 July 2018 The Amazon rumors come from reports that the retailer has been searching for a site to build a new Atlanta-area fulfillment center, where workers pack and ship customer orders. Tyler Estep, ajc, "Gwinnett official on ‘Project Rocket’ rumors: 1,800 jobs is 1,800 jobs," 27 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

His firm has handled about 100 billion search requests directly. Telis Demos, WSJ, "Rules Designed to Catch Terrorists Cost This Unsuspecting Customer Her Bank Account," 13 July 2018 In 2015 nearly a third of British lawyers were looking to leave the profession, according to the job searches of more than 1,000 of them by Life Productions, a career-change consultancy, perhaps because of the drudgery. The Economist, "Law firms climb aboard the AI wagon," 12 July 2018 After a decade-long search for just the right spot, the Shrewsbury Garden Club has transformed a neglected garden at the side entrance to Town Hall into a sensory experience for the visually impaired. Cynthia Fernandez,, "A sensory garden, a Beatles cover band, and a mentor program itself gets a boost," 13 July 2018 At the time, Engler said a national search will begin shortly for a permanent athletic director and that no internal candidates from MSU will be considered. David Jesse, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State to name Bill Beekman permanent athletic director on Monday," 13 July 2018 This month marks the one-year anniversary of the grisly Bucks County murders of four young men that gripped the nation and a search that ultimately led to Cosmo DiNardo and his parents’ Solebury Township farm. Oona Goodin-smith,, "Families of Cosmo DiNardo murder victims speak out, Pa. to pay $2M to fight teacher shortage | Morning Newsletter," 13 July 2018 In April, city officials launched a search for a consultant to assess the economic feasibility of leaving Black Hills and are currently evaluating proposals. Justin Worland/pueblo, Time, "How One Industrial City Is Fighting to Go Green," 12 July 2018 Usually, an England elimination from a major tournament is followed up by a sharp search to find a scapegoat for what's gone wrong., "England: Who Is to Blame?," 12 July 2018 The move caps off a search that lasted over half a year as Marvel met with over 70 or 75 directors in order to find its ideal candidate. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Black Widow' Movie Finds Director in Cate Shortland (Exclusive)," 12 July 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

9 Nov 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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