\ ˈslüth How to pronounce sleuth (audio) \

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

Genealogical sleuths from the DNA Doe Project used a DNA database called GEDMatch to identify family members of the victim. Wire Service, The Mercury News, "Thanks to DNA sleuths, a Lake Tahoe Jane Doe killed 37 years ago might finally get a headstone with her name on it," 10 June 2019 Ice Cream Photo: Netflix Some fun details featured on the poster include Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) looking positively sleuth-y. Kaitlin Reilly,, "What Clues Can We Gather From This New Stranger Things 3 Poster?," 5 June 2019 Other social media sleuths noted that this isn't the first time that Netflix has had some fun with its streaming titles. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "This “Gossip Girl” Description on Netflix Has Fans Reminiscing About the Show," 11 Dec. 2018 After the tragedy in Parkland - like after the tragedies in Las Vegas, Orlando and Sandy Hook, New Jersey - amateur sleuths on Reddit, Twitter and WordPress questioned the stories of those who publicly grieved. Danielle Paquette,, "People think she's a Parkland "crisis actor." It's terrifying.," 7 May 2018 After the tragedy in Parkland - like after the tragedies in Las Vegas, Orlando and Sandy Hook, New Jersey - amateur sleuths on Reddit, Twitter and WordPress questioned the stories of those who publicly grieved. Danielle Paquette,, "Conspiracy theorists think a Brooklyn chef is a Parkland ‘crisis actor.’ It's terrifying.," 7 May 2018 Internet sleuths are now, inevitably, speculating that the daughter in question could be Bella, who deleted her Instagram account this week. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "Is Lori Loughlin’s Daughter Olivia Jade Now Under Investigation in Operation Varsity Blues?," 17 Apr. 2019 Grab a seat next to a fellow cheap eats sleuth and hold tight for those powdered pillows, preferably with a coconut smoothie in hand. Paul Oswell, Condé Nast Traveler, "Best Beignets in New Orleans," 4 Mar. 2018 Much thanks owed to eagle-eyed sleuth @ZhenZhen, who spotted the post on Instagram and reported it to me at once. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "This Week in Timothée Chalamet, August 17 Edition," 17 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Obviously, Taylor's sleuthing fans know that nothing the singer does is without meaning, and many assumed that the typo was on purpose. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Taylor Swift’s New Merch is Going Viral and The Reason is Hilarious," 7 June 2019 Several sleuthing fans have pointed out an error on some of the singer’s new merchandise. Mekita Rivas,, "Taylor Swift's New Merch Has A Typo & Fans Have Questions," 6 June 2019 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

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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Statistics for sleuth

Last Updated

17 Jun 2019

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

old-fashioned : 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

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showing courage and determination

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