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[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.
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 detained
  • The prisoners who were detained with me were intellectuals.
  • When he's detained at the border, panic gets the best of him.
  • He showed decided disappointment at the prospect of being detained.
  • Chapman and his companions were committed to prison, though they do not seem to have been detained long.
  • Always now he liked it better when he was detained when he had to go and see her.
  • Our agents observed him throw it, detained him and interviewed him.
  • He was referring to the overall counterterrorism effort, but in the context of detained captives the line was suggestive.
  • They may be detained without charges for seventy-two hours or held in a tuberculosis-ridden pre-trial detention center for years.
  • Several of his bodyguards were detained and then paraded on national television, where they confessed their alleged crimes.
  • If it is not against the law, nobody should be detained or arrested.
British Dictionary definitions for detained


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 detained



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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