\ 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 Do not simply search the Internet to find a phone number for customer service. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "PlayStations and puppies top the holiday scam list," 18 Nov. 2020 Three groups of treasure hunters search for the gold fortune buried somewhere in New York by gangster Dutch Schultz in 1935. Washington Post, "What to watch on Wednesday: ‘Crazy, Not Insane’ on HBO," 18 Nov. 2020 Also, Garrett and Cheyenne (Colton Dunn, Nichole Bloom) search for the origin of a mysterious smell in the store, while Jonah (Ben Feldman) is excited about a fresh opportunity in this new episode of the workplace comedy. Ed Stockly, Los Angeles Times, "What’s on TV Thursday: The finale of The CW’s ‘Supernatural’," 18 Nov. 2020 But Gazelka, who has a reputation for fair dealing that should be important to him, should search his conscience and issue an apology. Editorial Board Star Tribune, Star Tribune, "No excuse for virus nondisclosure," 16 Nov. 2020 If a dog’s breath suddenly takes on an unusual odor, search his mouth for any foreign objects or growths. Traci Howerton,, "If your dog has bad breath, it could be a sign that there's a bigger health problem," 10 Nov. 2020 Ice-penetrating radar will measure the thickness of the ice shell covering the ocean, and help search for the subsurface lakes believed to be there -- much like those in Antarctica on Earth. Katie Hunt, CNN, "Jupiter's moon Europa may glow in the dark," 9 Nov. 2020 According to legal standards, without a phone owner’s consent, police can’t search a phone without a warrant. Dave Lieber, Dallas News, "New information on iPhone privacy, title theft, tax protest, possible driver’s license hack and more," 6 Nov. 2020 But as the count drags on in the ensuing days, more and more voters may search online for confirmation of their existing biases. Washington Post, "Trump’s premature claim of victory stokes confusion and conflict online," 4 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Child pornography investigations sometimes yield more search warrants that uncover additional evidence, Grassmann said. Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times, "California Legislature employee is arrested in child pornography case," 19 Nov. 2020 In Rensselaer County, Sheriff Patrick Russo, a Republican, said his office did not have the resources needed to check on Thanksgiving gatherings or to wait for the search warrants that would be required to enter homes. Michael Gold, New York Times, "Who’s Coming to Thanksgiving? N.Y. Sheriffs Say It’s Not Their Business," 17 Nov. 2020 Police obtained search warrants to confiscate and examine Davis' items. Star Tribune, "Minneapolis police investigator admits to using 'deception' to question, arrest alleged murder accomplice," 17 Nov. 2020 Scott is the only Black woman in Kentucky's legislature and the sponsor of Breonna's Law, a bill that would ban the use of no-knock search warrants across Kentucky. Tessa Duvall, The Courier-Journal, "Charges dropped against Rep. Attica Scott, 17 others in Breonna Taylor protest arrest," 16 Nov. 2020 Though the agencies served search warrants on Paul, no charges have been filed against him. Taylor Goldenstein,, "Court records depict how investor Nate Paul wielded AG Ken Paxton legal opinion," 6 Nov. 2020 In recent history, the Oregon National Guard was sent in the mid-1980s to provide perimeter support when federal and state authorities served search warrants on the Rajneesh compound near Antelope in central Oregon, Bomar said. oregonlive, "Oregon National Guard takes to the streets in Portland protests for first time in 50 years," 5 Nov. 2020 Authorities obtained search warrants for Brewer's storage container in Heber Springs and his business in Cleburne County. William Sanders, Arkansas Online, "Sheriff's office: Cleburne County man arrested with $350,000 in meth," 4 Nov. 2020 The daytime provision will not apply to search warrants for the withdrawal of blood. Tyler Arnold, Washington Examiner, "Governor signs set of policing reforms into law in Virginia," 29 Oct. 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

20 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Search.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Nov. 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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