Definition of detain in English:


Syllabification: de·tain
Pronunciation: /dəˈtān


[with object]
1Keep (someone) in official custody, typically for questioning about a crime or in politically sensitive situations: she was detained without trial for two years
More example sentences
  • Indeed, that judge may be inclined to put pressure on a suspect by deciding to detain him in police custody for the purpose of questioning.
  • Because he was not detained in custody after 10th April, he continued to offend.
  • The claimant may also expect to discover whether the custody officer who detained him did so from a genuine belief in the need so to act, or from some ulterior motive.
hold, take into custody, take (in), confine, imprison, lock up, put in jail, intern;
informal pick up, run in, haul in, nab, collar
1.1Keep (someone) from proceeding; hold back: she made to open the door, but he detained her
More example sentences
  • A machine detains you for only a moment and then a pleasant live operator will thank you for saying ‘I oppose’ (or ‘I approve of’) of the proposed War against Iraq.
  • Freddie was passed down the line, each diver detaining him to take their turn.
  • It appeared to be pointing in my direction to scare me away and stop me detaining him.
delay, hold up, make late, keep, slow up/down;


late Middle English (in the sense 'be afflicted with sickness or infirmity'): from Old French detenir, from a variant of Latin detinere, from de- 'away, aside' + tenere 'to hold'.



More example sentences
  • How did the mayor justify the arrest and prolonged detainment of these individuals?
  • Clearly the police have unique powers of arrest and detainment which no civilian should be able to imitate.
  • The search resulted in the detainment of three insurgents who remain in custody.

Definition of detain in: