\ 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

Then Wolff flirted with creating a series of short stories about real-life figures who searched for the elixir of life. Hal Boedeker,, "UCF prof explores recipe for immortality in debut novel," 5 June 2019 Snyder also objected to collecting data from the personal emails of his children, searching his employees’ personal emails and providing their personal cellphones, which his lawyer said were outside his custody and control. Washington Post, "Where things stand in the Flint water crisis investigation," 4 June 2019 Kotzebue showed its heart and soul in the way people banded together to search for Ashley and organized to mourn her. Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News, "‘No more silence’: The kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of a 10-year-old stunned an Alaska town and triggered a movement," 4 June 2019 Divers had been searching for Ham for since Sunday. Kirk Mitchell, The Denver Post, "74-year-old missing boater found dead in Denver lake," 4 June 2019 Humanitarian aid groups have been searching for a centralized migrant shelter to relieve some of the pressure on local churches that have been assisting migrant families. Daniel González, azcentral, "Closed school in Phoenix may be used as a shelter for migrant families released by ICE," 4 June 2019 Six years ago, the Federal Trade Commission decided against penalizing Google even though the agency’s staff said the company was unlawfully maintaining a monopoly in search and search advertising., "Google, facing U.S. antitrust probe, has a battle plan ready from its EU fight," 3 June 2019 Police have been searching for Jennifer Dulos, 50, since May 24. Wire Service, The Mercury News, "Jennifer Dulos disappearance: Husband, friend arrested," 3 June 2019 Unlike artillery, which relies on forward forces to locate and provide the coordinates of targets, the Chinese drone system can search for and destroy its own targets. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "This New Armored Vehicle Can Launch a Swarm of Killer Drones," 16 May 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In the trailer for new film Ad Astra, he's enlisted with exactly that as an astronaut named Roy who must go in search of his missing father somewhere in space. Kathryn Lindsay,, "Brad Pitt Must Save Human Life As We Know It In Ad Astra Trailer," 6 June 2019 Just offshore, on the park’s namesake island that looks like a sugarloaf, is a small colony of about 40 Humboldt penguins prowling the coast in search of food. Mark Johanson,, "A landscape like no other: Exploring the surreal southern end of the Atacama Desert," 6 June 2019 After four days of futile searches, the remains of two South Korean victims were recovered Monday, one a woman in her 50s found near the sunken boat and the other a man found far downstream. Washington Post, "Death toll in Danube sunken tour boat accident rises to 11," 5 June 2019 Up stepped Haseley, still in search of his first big-league hit. Bob Brookover,, "Adam Haseley’s first hit ends Phillies’ strange road trip with a come-from-behind win over Padres," 5 June 2019 One excels at pole vaulting, the other at diving Sisters Camryn and Morgan Thomson both came out of gymnastics in search of a new sport to try. Pomerado News, "Thomson sisters set Poway High records," 5 June 2019 The case will remain open and the search for Sellers will continue, said Kenton County Police Chief Spike Jones. Julia Fair,, "Search renewed for Kenton County boy who vanished in 1980," 4 June 2019 People in search of a dog have been scammed out of thousands of dollars by sending money to illegitimate websites, the consumer protection organization warns. Katrina Pross, Twin Cities, "Internet puppy scams on the rise, warns Better Business Bureau," 4 June 2019 There’s a growing faction of people who think this month ends with Oregon State opening a national search, with Bailey as a solid candidate to get the permanent job., "Canzano: Clock ticking on Oregon State baseball and Pat Casey," 3 June 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

8 Jun 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

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