Definition of detective in English:


Line breaks: de¦tect|ive
Pronunciation: /dɪˈtɛktɪv


  • 1A person, especially a police officer, whose occupation is to investigate and solve crimes: detectives are anxious to interview anyone who saw the car
    More example sentences
    • Eight of the suspects were today being quizzed by detectives at undisclosed police stations.
    • Strathclyde Police last night confirmed that detectives had investigated the matter.
    • The investigating detectives reviewed the color surveillance video at the dealership.
    investigator, private detective, private investigator, operative; British enquiry agent, CID officer, detective constable, DC, detective sergeant, DS, detective inspector, DI, detective chief inspector, DCI, detective superintendent, detective chief superintendent
    North American informal peeper, shamus, gumshoe
    informal , • dated dick, private dick, tec, bogey, hawkshaw, sherlock
    North American dated Pinkerton
  • 1.1 [as modifier] Denoting a rank of police officer with investigative duties: a detective inspector
    More example sentences
    • ‘One of the prints we have found is yours,’ a Strathclyde Police detective inspector told her.
    • The Q car team will include an advanced driver, detective sergeant and a police constable.
    • He also telephoned a detective inspector and told him he was conducting a search.
  • 1.2 [as modifier] Concerning crime and its investigation: detective work
    More example sentences
    • Since the mid-nineteenth century crime and detective fiction has been a prominent part of the output of all the dominant mass media.
    • Jackson was sitting on the couch, watching some type of mystery detective crime fighting show.
    • As well as detective work, crime prevention is also a key priority.


mid 19th century: from detect. The noun was originally short for detective policeman, from an adjectival use of the word in the sense 'serving to detect'.

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