\ˈslüth \

Definition of sleuth 

(Entry 1 of 2)


sleuthed; sleuthing; sleuths

Definition of sleuth (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to act as a detective : search for information

transitive verb

: to search for and discover

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Did You Know?


They were the footprints of a gigantic hound! Those canine tracks in Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles set the great Sherlock Holmes sleuthing on the trail of a murderer. It was a case of art imitating etymology. When Middle English speakers first borrowed sleuth from Old Norse, the term referred to "the track of an animal or person." In Scotland, a sleuthhound was a bloodhound used to hunt game or track down fugitives from justice. In 19th century U.S. English, sleuthhound became an epithet for a detective and was soon shortened to sleuth. From there, it was only a short leap to turning sleuth into a verb describing what a sleuth does.

Examples of sleuth in a Sentence


the popular TV sleuth lives a much more action-packed life than do his real-world counterparts

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

But who are these conspiracy-minded internet sleuths spreading misinformation? Emma Grey Ellis, WIRED, "Here’s One Way to Reform an Internet Conspiracy Theorist," 27 June 2018 Another is Carl Bernstein, the onetime Watergate sleuth, who has continually hammered Trump as a CNN commentator. Howard Kurtz, Fox News, "Crossing a line? Trump wants heads of CNN, NBC News fired," 31 Aug. 2018 Helicopters, amateur sleuths, a woman dressed as a snake and a celebrity private detective soon elbowed into the quest. Drew Hinshaw, WSJ, "Nothing Unites a Divided Country Like an Escaped 18-Foot Snake in the Suburbs," 28 Aug. 2018 Thank you, celebrity sleuths, for capturing Bella Hadid and The Weeknd canoodling at Cannes. Sarah Spellings, The Cut, "Bella Hadid Caught Kissing The Weeknd at Cannes," 11 May 2018 Some Internet sleuths have discovered a trademark filed by Lady Gaga's company Ate My Heart Inc. back in February for something called Haus Beauty. Jenna Rosenstein, Harper's BAZAAR, "Lady Gaga is Reportedly Launching a Makeup Line Called Haus Beauty," 9 May 2018 The outrage was immediate, fueled by the press, internet sleuths, and suicide experts, who said such a suicide was unheard of. Sean Elder, Town & Country, "The Mysterious Deaths That Rocked a Wealthy Southern California Enclave," 4 Apr. 2018 Per the sleuths on Reddit, Yrigoyen's ex-wife is named Kayla Cunningham. Rebecca Farley,, "What We Know About Garrett's Bombshell Bachelorette Moment," 19 June 2018 Online footage of the beating has been viewed online tens of thousands of times and attracted a group of online sleuths, led by Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King. Ian Shapira, Anchorage Daily News, "White supremacist is guilty in Charlottesville parking garage beating of black man," 2 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

At least, that's what YouTuber Elle Tells concluded after sleuthing around social media, as reported by Revelist. Kaleigh Fasanella, Allure, "It Looks Like Urban Decay's New Naked Cherry Palette Just Leaked on Social Media," 29 Aug. 2018 The Nancy Drew fan in me decided to sleuth around a bit. Country Living, "#11 The Mystery of the Disappearing Chard," 21 June 2011 But that's not all some social media sleuthing revealed. Lindsey V Thompson, Teen Vogue, "Bella Hadid and The Weeknd Spotted Hanging Out in Paris," 1 June 2018 But Young’s sister had done her homework to ensure she’d made the right choice, sleuthing out the breed Young was partial to and even catching him in conversation about dog names. Nancy Kruh,, "Meet Chris Young's Adorable Puppy, Porter: 'He Might Lick You to Death!'," 8 May 2018 Doty and her colleagues are now sleuthing out the gene that enables PDN3 to accomplish this feat. Leslie Nemo, Scientific American, "Treating Toxins with Tree Microbes," 1 Nov. 2017 They were sold two years ago, but in the meantime, Trevor had sleuthed a rustic compound based around an honest-to-goodness Craftsman Sears kit house of the sort that sprang up all across America at the turn of the century. Oberto Gili, Vogue, "Napa of Another Time: Restoring a 100-Year-Old Home in Wine Country," 18 Jan. 2018 The birth of eBay signaled an entirely new way of sleuthing out vintage gear. Nick Sullivan, Esquire, "Vintage Expert Sean Crowley Shares His Tips for Scoring the Perfect Find," 5 Jan. 2018 Cincinnati's bus system by the numbers Wochit Troy Miller has been sleuthing Greater Cincinnati's main public transportation agency for years, certainly long before SORTA recently found $8 million just sitting around in its bank account. Jason Williams,, "PX: SORTA leader pushes sales tax in Hamilton County – even though he votes in Texas," 15 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sleuth.' 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 sleuth


1872, in the meaning defined above


1900, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for sleuth


short for sleuthhound

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Dictionary Entries near sleuth






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Statistics for sleuth

Last Updated

2 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sleuth

The first known use of sleuth was in 1872

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More Definitions for sleuth



English Language Learners Definition of sleuth

: someone who looks for information to solve crimes

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More from Merriam-Webster on sleuth

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with sleuth

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sleuth

Spanish Central: Translation of sleuth

Nglish: Translation of sleuth for Spanish Speakers

Comments on sleuth

What made you want to look up sleuth? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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