1 of 2


searched; searching; searches

transitive verb

: to look into or over carefully or thoroughly in an effort to find or discover something: such as
: to examine in seeking something
searched the north field
: to look through or explore by inspecting possible places of concealment or investigating suspicious circumstances
: to read thoroughly : check
especially : to examine a public record or register for information about
search land titles
: to examine for articles concealed on the person
: to look at as if to discover or penetrate intention or nature
: to uncover, find, or come to know by inquiry or scrutiny
usually used with out

intransitive verb

: to look or inquire carefully
searched for the papers
: to make painstaking investigation or examination
searchability noun
searchable adjective
searcher noun
searchingly adverb


2 of 2


: an act of searching
a search for food
go in search of help
: an act of boarding and inspecting a ship on the high seas in exercise of right of search
obsolete : a party that searches
: power or range of penetrating
also : a penetrating effect

Example Sentences

Verb They haven't found him yet, so they have to keep searching. The police searched her for concealed weapons. He was searched by the guard before he was allowed to enter the courtroom. The software allows you to search thousands of sites at the same time. She searched for information on the Web. He searched her face, hoping to see some glimmer of emotion. Noun We will begin a search for a new manager this week. I performed a search for the file. I did a Web search for restaurants in that area. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
The Coast Guard was using a cutter and aircraft and the fire department was using a boat to search the waters off Hōnaunau, on the Big Island’s west coast, Moller said. Tim Stelloh, NBC News, 18 Jan. 2023 An apocalyptic scene played out behind them, as firefighters and other emergency workers kept digging at the huge mound of rubble that the day before had been their homes — using both construction equipment and their hands to search for the missing. Anastacia Galouchka, Washington Post, 15 Jan. 2023 Breaks in the weather allowed rescuers to resume using divers, drones and helicopters to search for Kyle Doan, who was lost in the floods in San Luis Obispo County on Monday while on the way to his first day of kindergarten after the holiday break. Arkansas Online, 12 Jan. 2023 Many people ask how to remove their information on creepy people search sites. Kim Komando, USA TODAY, 5 Jan. 2023 By doing so, responses to search queries can include more conversational and contextual answers. PCMAG, 4 Jan. 2023 According to Google's Year in Search data, some of the top beauty trends of 2022 included bold looks with dark lip liner and graphic eyeliner looks, which saw a 200% increase when compared to search trends in 2021. Samantha Olson, Seventeen, 30 Dec. 2022 Content that serves your audience’s needs and search intent demonstrates an understanding of that consumer segment. John Hall, Forbes, 18 Dec. 2022 Among those that have caused the greatest concern among lawmakers, civil rights groups, and environmental campaigners, include the expansion of police stop and search powers as well as the criminalization of longstanding civil resistance tactics. Time, 16 Dec. 2022
An inconclusive report issued last week on the search for the person responsible for the leak was unlikely to have helped matters. Adam Liptak, New York Times, 23 Jan. 2023 The police department did not have any updates on the search when reached Saturday. Minyvonne Burke, NBC News, 21 Jan. 2023 Bridget Jones is determined to improve herself while on the search for true love. Chaise Sanders, Country Living, 20 Jan. 2023 An Ohio woman accused of stealing a car containing 5-month-old twin boys, leading investigators on a dayslong search for one of the babies, now faces federal kidnapping charges. Meredith Deliso, ABC News, 19 Jan. 2023 This sent me on a search to find the answers to two questions: Why are some people compulsive talkers? Dan Lyons, Time, 19 Jan. 2023 What impact does Deshaun Watson have on the search? Dan Labbe, cleveland, 16 Jan. 2023 Sharing details on the search, Edell said that authorities were focusing on trees as clouded leopards are known to climb them. Charmaine Patterson, Peoplemag, 13 Jan. 2023 In addition to earning $63.7 million at the domestic box office, The Goonies — about a group of young teens who embark on a search for mythical treasure — has become a cult favorite since its original release. Joey Nolfi,, 11 Jan. 2023 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'search.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History



Middle English cerchen, from Anglo-French cercher, sercher to travel about, investigate, search, from Late Latin circare to go about, from Latin circum round about — more at circum-

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of search was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near search

Cite this Entry

“Search.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
: to go through or look carefully and thoroughly in an effort to find or discover something
search a room
search for a lost child
: to look in the pockets or the clothing of for something hidden
search an arrested person
: to find or come to know by or as if by careful investigation or examination
usually used with out
: to use a computer to find information in (as a database, network, or website)
searcher noun
searchingly adverb


2 of 2 noun
: an act of searching : an attempt to get, find, or seek out

Legal Definition


1 of 2 noun
: an exploratory investigation (as of an area or person) by a government agent that intrudes on an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy and is conducted usually for the purpose of finding evidence of unlawful activity or guilt or to locate a person
warrantless searches are invalid unless they fall within narrowly drawn exceptionsState v. Mahone, 701 P.2d 171 (1985)
see also exigent circumstances, plain view sense 2, probable cause at cause sense 2, reasonable suspicion, search warrant at warrant compare seizure

Note: The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and requires that a warrant may issue only upon probable cause and that the warrant must particularly describe the place to be searched. Some searches, such as a search incident to an arrest, have been held to be valid without a warrant.

administrative search
: an inspection or search carried out under a regulatory or statutory scheme especially in public or commercial premises and usually to enforce compliance with regulations or laws pertaining to health, safety, or security one of the fundamental principles of administrative searches is that the government may not use an administrative inspection scheme as a pretext to search for evidence of criminal violationsPeople v. Madison, 520 N.E.2d 374 (1988)

called also administrative inspection, inspection, regulatory search

see also probable cause at cause sense 2

Note: The U.S. Supreme Court held in Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523 (1967), that a reasonable administrative search may be conducted upon a showing of probable cause which is less stringent than that required for a search incident to a criminal investigation. The Court stated that the reasonableness of the search can only be determined by “balancing the need to search against the invasion which the search entails.” Cases following Camara have stated that the probable cause requirement is fulfilled by showing that the search meets reasonable administrative standards established in a nonarbitrary regulatory scheme.

border search
: a search made of a person upon crossing into the U.S. at a border or its equivalent (as the airport at which the person arrives in the U.S.)

Note: Probable cause is not required for a border search.

consent search
: a warrantless search conducted upon the voluntarily given consent of a person having authority over the place or things to be searched
inventory search
: a warrantless search (as of an impounded automobile) conducted for the purpose of placing personal property in safekeeping to prevent loss of the property and claims against police for such loss
protective search
: a search (as a frisk) conducted by a law enforcement officer for the purpose of ensuring against threats to safety (as from a concealed weapon) or sometimes to prevent the destruction of evidence
regulatory search
: administrative search in this entry
shakedown search \ ˈshāk-​ˌdau̇n-​ \
: a search for illicit or contraband material (as weapons or drugs) in prisoners' cells that is usually random and warrantless

Note: In Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517 (1984), the U.S. Supreme Court held that Fourth Amendment protections do not extend to searches of prisoners' cells.

strip search
: a search for something concealed on a person conducted after removal of the person's clothing
: an act of boarding and inspecting a ship on the high seas in exercise of the right to do so under international law (as in time of war)
: an examination of a public record or registry see also title search


2 of 2 transitive verb
: to conduct a search of
search the premises
search a person
search a title

intransitive verb

: to conduct a search
search for drugs in a school locker
searcher noun

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