sleuth

noun
\ ˈslüth How to pronounce sleuth (audio) \

Definition of sleuth

 (Entry 1 of 2)

sleuth

verb
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?

Verb

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

Noun the popular TV sleuth lives a much more action-packed life than do his real-world counterparts
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But since October 2019, a young web sleuth surnamed Wang has been creating a database of cases in which people were punished for online or offline comments critical of the central government. Quartz Staff, Quartz, "With a Google spreadsheet, a web sleuth tracks the comments that get people jailed in China," 31 Mar. 2021 But what motivates someone to dedicate large portions of their time to playing celebrity surgery sleuth? Alex Peters, Vogue, "Is Our Cultural Obsession With Celebrity Transformations Ruining Our Self-Esteem?," 31 Mar. 2021 The drama series follows a gang of troubled street teens who are manipulated into solving crimes for Doctor Watson and his business partner, the elusive British sleuth. Chuck Barney, Detroit Free Press, "TV highlights for the week of March 21-27," 21 Mar. 2021 The drama series follows a gang of troubled street teens who are manipulated into solving crimes for Doctor Watson and his business partner, the elusive British sleuth. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "Demi Lovato, ‘Superstore’ finale top this week’s TV picks," 21 Mar. 2021 Unlike big blockbuster stories that revolve around one near-superhuman character (who is usually a man), cozy series cultivate an amateur sleuth (usually a woman) and a cast of quirky secondary characters. Tamara Lush, BostonGlobe.com, "Murder, but gentler: ‘Cozy’ mysteries are a pandemic-era balm," 7 Mar. 2021 Unlike big blockbuster stories that revolve around one near-superhuman character (who is usually a man), cozy series cultivate an amateur sleuth (usually a woman) and a cast of quirky secondary characters. orlandosentinel.com, "Murder, but gentler: ‘Cozy’ mysteries a pandemic-era balm," 7 Mar. 2021 An amateur sleuth searches for clues in the murder of a visitor at a bookstore. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week: ‘Lust for Life’; ‘Platoon’ and more," 5 Mar. 2021 In a cozy mystery, there are no gory details, a likeable amateur sleuth, usually a woman, quiet villages or small towns and a satisfying ending. Karina Bland, The Arizona Republic, "For this author, killing people is easier than making them fall in love," 27 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In other words, the challenge was on to sleuth out magical realms. Wendy Goodman, Curbed, "Remembering Richard David Story, the Magazine Editor Who Ate the World Whole," 9 Mar. 2021 The easiest way to sleuth out the life cycle of a parasite is to present it with potential hosts, just as Dykman did with the worms in the kelp bass. Sabrina Imbler, The Atlantic, "An Epic Journey to Adulthood Begins in the Intestines of a Deep-Sea Fish," 16 Feb. 2021 Researchers have to sleuth out whether that fish could physically make that sound, either by listening to existing recordings or speculating how the fish’s sonic muscles might produce noise. Sabrina Imbler, New York Times, "Could Listening to the Deep Sea Help Save It?," 10 Nov. 2020 Students and physicists traveled to the Netherlands to sleuth out a Vermeer masterpiece. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Nerdiest Investigation Ever: What Time of Day Did Vermeer Paint His Masterpiece?," 31 July 2020 On Facebook, locals were already sleuthing, trying to figure out who the sick person was. Los Angeles Times, "In rural Northern California, dread and denial greet coronavirus’ slower creep," 4 Apr. 2020 Meredith marches into the research room and slumps down at a table with DeLuca, who has been sleuthing around all day, openly disobeying Bailey’s orders to stay home and get rest. Lincee Ray, EW.com, "Grey's Anatomy recap: What's wrong with Richard?," 3 Apr. 2020 In Hong Kong, the World Health Organization, with Marion Cotillard as perhaps its chicest delegate, attempts to sleuth out the outbreak’s origin with a local group of male skeptics. Wesley Morris, New York Times, "For Me, Rewatching ‘Contagion’ Was Fun, Until It Wasn’t," 10 Mar. 2020 In the wake of the Dubai scandal, Ammann’s sleuthing uncovered two distinct players in the elephant-export racket. Paul Kvinta, Outside Online, "I Bought an Elephant to Find Out How to Save Them," 12 Nov. 2019

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

Noun

1872, in the meaning defined above

Verb

1900, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for sleuth

Noun

short for sleuthhound

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Last Updated

8 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sleuth.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sleuth. Accessed 15 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for sleuth

sleuth

noun

English Language Learners Definition of sleuth

old-fashioned : someone who looks for information to solve crimes

More from Merriam-Webster on sleuth

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for sleuth

Nglish: Translation of sleuth for Spanish Speakers

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