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[dih-tekt] /dɪˈtɛkt/
verb (used with object)
to discover or catch (a person) in the performance of some act:
to detect someone cheating.
to discover the existence of:
to detect the odor of gas.
to find out the true character or activity of:
to detect a spy.
  1. to rectify alternating signal currents in a radio receiver.
  2. to demodulate.
Origin of detect
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English < Latin dētēctus (past participle of dētegere), equivalent to dē- de- + teg(ere) to cover + -tus past participle suffix
Related forms
detectable, detectible, adjective
detectability, detectibility, noun
predetect, verb (used with object)
undetectable, adjective
undetectably, adverb
undetected, adjective
undetectible, adjective
Synonym Study
2. See learn. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for detect
  • It wants someone to develop a sniffing machine that can detect individuals by their body odor.
  • Many images are of gels, which are ways to detect proteins or other molecules in a sample, and often they are blurry.
  • Jewel beetles detect fires using receptors called sensilla.
  • Actually, scientists are finding that the ability to detect sarcasm really is useful.
  • Accelerometers detect movement and translate it into digital signals.
  • In many laboratories, this type of inappropriate behavior is difficult to prevent and detect.
  • Some trainers and researchers think they detect subtle changes in human behavior or scent before an episode occurs.
  • The problem for physicists is that neutrinos are impossible to see and difficult to detect.
  • Magnetometers now in use at airports cannot detect plastic weapons or substances used in explosives.
  • When ulcers are suspected, the doctor will order tests to detect bleeding.
British Dictionary definitions for detect


verb (transitive)
to perceive or notice: to detect a note of sarcasm
to discover the existence or presence of (esp something likely to elude observation): to detect alcohol in the blood
to extract information from (an electromagnetic wave)
(obsolete) to reveal or expose (a crime, criminal, etc)
Derived Forms
detectable, detectible, adjective
detecter, noun
Word Origin
C15: from Latin dētectus uncovered, from dētegere to uncover, from de- + tegere to cover
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 detect

early 15c., from Latin detectus, past participle of detegere "uncover, expose," figuratively "discover, reveal, disclose," from de- "un-, off" (see de-) + tegere "to cover" (see stegosaurus). Related: Detected; detecting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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