Synonym Chooser

How is the word detain distinct from other similar verbs?

Some common synonyms of detain are delay, retard, slacken, and slow. While all these words mean "to cause to be late or behind in movement or progress," detain implies a holding back beyond a reasonable or appointed time.

unexpected business had detained her

When is delay a more appropriate choice than detain?

While in some cases nearly identical to detain, delay implies a holding back, usually by interference, from completion or arrival.

bad weather delayed our arrival

In what contexts can retard take the place of detain?

In some situations, the words retard and detain are roughly equivalent. However, retard suggests reduction of speed without actual stopping.

language barriers retarded their progress

When might slacken be a better fit than detain?

Although the words slacken and detain have much in common, slacken suggests an easing up or relaxing of power or effort.

on hot days runners slacken their pace

How do slow and slacken relate to one another, in the sense of detain?

Both slow and slacken also imply a reduction of speed, slow often suggesting deliberate intention.

medication slowed the patient's heart rate

Thesaurus Entries Near detain

Cite this Entry

“Detain.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Mar. 2023.

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