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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
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was impossible to detect any sign of emotion on his face.

    Under Western Eyes Joseph Conrad
  • How often, my dear, have you and I endeavoured to detect and censure this partial spirit in others?

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • All manner of spirits were there made manifest, and no one to detect them.

  • He could detect a design upon it when nobody else had any perception of the fact.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • And the electrometer was able to detect the presence of those one at a time.

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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