Definition of detain in English:

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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;
arrest, apprehend, seize
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;
hinder, hamper, impede, obstruct



Pronunciation: /dəˈtānmənt/
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.


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'.

Words that rhyme with detain

abstain, appertain, arcane, arraign, ascertain, attain, Bahrain, bane, blain, brain, Braine, Cain, Caine, campaign, cane, cinquain, chain, champagne, champaign, Champlain, Charmaine, chicane, chow mein, cocaine, Coleraine, Coltrane, complain, constrain, contain, crane, Dane, deign, demesne, demi-mondaine, disdain, domain, domaine, drain, Duane, Dwane, Elaine, entertain, entrain, explain, fain, fane, feign, gain, Germaine, germane, grain, humane, Hussein, inane, Jain, Jane, Jermaine, Kane, La Fontaine, lain, lane, legerdemain, Lorraine, main, Maine, maintain, mane, mise en scène, Montaigne, moraine, mundane, obtain, ordain, Paine, pane, pertain, plain, plane, Port-of-Spain, profane, rain, Raine, refrain, reign, rein, retain, romaine, sane, Seine, Shane, Sinn Fein, skein, slain, Spain, Spillane, sprain, stain, strain, sustain, swain, terrain, thane, train, twain, Ujjain, Ukraine, underlain, urbane, vain, vane, vein, Verlaine, vicereine, wain, wane, Wayne

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: de·tain

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