de·​tect | \ di-ˈtekt How to pronounce detect (audio) , dē- \
detected; detecting; detects

Definition of detect

transitive verb

1 : to discover the true character of detecting drug smugglers
2 : to discover or determine the existence, presence, or fact of detect alcohol in the blood Do I detect a note of sarcasm in your voice?

intransitive verb

: to work as a detective

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Other Words from detect

detectability \ di-​ˌtek-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce detect (audio) , dē-​ \ noun
detectable \ di-​ˈtek-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce detect (audio) , dē-​ \ adjective

Examples of detect in a Sentence

The test is used to detect the presence of alcohol in the blood. This type of cancer is difficult to detect in its early stages.
Recent Examples on the Web Arens said the Plastics Piranha uses autonomous, self-guiding technology that can detect nearby objects and avoid harming sea life. Madeline Mitchell, The Enquirer, 13 Oct. 2021 The hope is to create a machine-learning algorithm that could automatically detect dangerous objects before a plane rolls over them at high-speed. Jeremy Kahn, Fortune, 12 Oct. 2021 When used in asymptomatic people, the tests can have a sensitivity — ability to detect disease — of about 40%. Shari Rudavsky, The Indianapolis Star, 1 Oct. 2021 Modern science and engineering give us the ability to detect along the entire electromagnetic spectrum with greater accuracy and precision than ever before. Rachel Olney, Forbes, 1 Sep. 2021 The ability to detect threats from homegrown violent extremists represents a challenge for officials because there may not be direct intelligence prior to an act of violence being committed. Fernando Alfonso Iii, CNN, 28 Aug. 2021 Agents in the Laredo Sector recently disrupted a smuggling attempt in which the smugglers used lemon pepper seasoning to hinder service K-9’s ability to detect any human scent, officials said. Fox News, 26 Aug. 2021 Timing also plays a vital role in the test’s ability to detect the virus. Hannah Drown, cleveland, 10 Aug. 2021 But some social media users are casting doubt on the test's ability to detect coronavirus variants. Miriam Fauzia, USA TODAY, 31 July 2021

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

1574, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for detect

Middle English, from Latin detectus, past participle of detegere to uncover, detect, from de- + tegere to cover — more at thatch

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Last Updated

16 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Detect.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for detect



English Language Learners Definition of detect

: to discover or notice the presence of (something that is hidden or hard to see, hear, taste, etc.)


de·​tect | \ di-ˈtekt How to pronounce detect (audio) \
detected; detecting

Kids Definition of detect

: to learn that something or someone is or was there detect smoke

Other Words from detect

detector \ -​ˈtek-​tər \ noun

More from Merriam-Webster on detect

Nglish: Translation of detect for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of detect for Arabic Speakers


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