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Syllabification: de·tect
Pronunciation: /dəˈtekt

Definition of detect in English:


[with object]
1Discover or identify the presence or existence of: cancer may soon be detected in its earliest stages
More example sentences
  • As soon as the immune system detects the presence of a pathogen it mounts a response to kill it, which is highly successful in most cases in healthy people.
  • In truth, she had thought that they would have detected each other's presence sooner.
  • If he detects the presence of drugs on someone we could then go ahead and search them.
1.1Discover or investigate (a crime or its perpetrators): the public can help the police to detect crime
More example sentences
  • The system had to be radically reformed to detect murder, medical error and neglect.
  • We want to prevent the crimes and detect those that have already been committed.
  • Even the fact that there is the ability to detect murder before it is committed is a complex issue.
discover, uncover, find out, turn up, unearth, dig up, root out, expose, reveal
catch, hunt down, track down, find, expose, reveal, unmask, smoke out;
apprehend, arrest
informal nail
1.2Discern (something intangible or barely perceptible): Paul detected a faint note of weariness in his father’s voice
More example sentences
  • Mr Hutchence says staff first detected a faint smell the day before - but on Wednesday it was much stronger.
  • I could barely detect the horseradish in the creamy bed of mashed potato, a more generous grating would have perked it up.
  • She fancied for a moment that she could detect the faint rusty smell of hot steel.
notice, perceive, discern, be aware of, note, make out, spot, recognize, distinguish, remark, identify, diagnose;
catch, sense, see, smell, scent, taste


late Middle English: from Latin detect- 'uncovered', from the verb detegere, from de- (expressing reversal) + tegere 'to cover'. The original senses were 'uncover, expose' and 'give someone away', later 'expose the real or hidden nature of something or someone'; hence the current senses (partly influenced by detective).



Example sentences
  • Without faith of some sort, life is a constant bafflement, apparently devoid of any detectable meaning.
  • Despite the wall presenting an obvious and easily detectable hazard, no action was taken to make it safe.
  • In all the photos and bits of film I've ever seen of her, there's never been a speck of dust detectable on her person.


Example sentences
  • Background air quality is already detectably worse in Europe.
  • These authors, however, observed that thymine glycol was not detectably mutagenic in double-stranded DNA.
  • Neither blade's sharpness was detectably affected after numerous slashes.

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Pronunciation: pɪət
lively; cheerful