9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[dih-teyn] /dɪˈteɪn/
verb (used with object)
to keep from proceeding; keep waiting; delay.
to keep under restraint or in custody.
Obsolete. to keep back or withhold, as from a person.
Origin of detain
1480-90; detainen < Anglo-French, Old French detenir < Vulgar Latin *dētenīre, for Latin dētinēre, equivalent to dē- de- + -tinēre, combining form of tenēre to hold
Related forms
detainable, adjective
detainment, noun
predetain, verb (used with object)
undetainable, adjective
undetained, adjective
1. retard, stop, slow, stay, check. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for detain
  • Do not attempt to arrest or detain these individuals yourself.
  • The police can detain you for any one of a million reasons.
  • The police were alerted that he was at the airport, so had the port police detain him.
  • Nor will it detain party politicians, keener to win power than to take stands.
  • If the threshers catch him they detain him over night and punish him by keeping him from the harvest-supper.
  • Lee hoped this would detain me a few days longer and give him an opportunity of escape.
  • They say they will only detain suspects if they encounter them in the course of regular activity.
  • All he wished of his tailor was, to provide that sober mean of color and cut which would never detain the eye for a moment.
  • The draft bill will make it easier to detain people with a mental disorder who pose a threat to others.
  • Four said the administration did have the right to detain him, but not indefinitely and not without review.
British Dictionary definitions for detain


verb (transitive)
to delay; hold back; stop
to confine or hold in custody; restrain
(archaic) to retain or withhold
Derived Forms
detainable, adjective
detainee (ˌdiːteɪˈniː) noun
detainment, noun
Word Origin
C15: from Old French detenir, from Latin dētinēre to hold off, keep back, from de- + tenēre to hold
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for detain

early 15c., deteynen, from Old French detenir "to hold off, keep back" (12c.), from Latin detinere "hold off, keep back," from de- "from, away" (see de-) + tenere "to hold" (see tenet). Modern spelling is 17c., from influence of contain, retain, etc. Related: Detained; detaining.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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