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Line breaks: de¦tect
Pronunciation: /dɪˈtɛkt

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.
1.1Discern (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, become aware of, perceive, note, discern, make out, observe, spot, become conscious of, recognize, distinguish, mark, remark, identify, diagnose;
British informal clock
literary behold, descry, espy
1.2Discover 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, find out, turn up, unearth, dig up, dredge up, root out, hunt out, nose out, ferret out, expose, reveal, bring to light, bring into the open;
solve, clear up, get to the bottom of, find the perpetrator of, find the person behind
informal figure out, crack
catch, hunt down, find, expose, reveal, unmask, smoke out, ferret out, track down, apprehend, arrest
informal nail


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'; hence the current (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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