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[dih-tek-tiv] /dɪˈtɛk tɪv/
a member of the police force or a private investigator whose function is to obtain information and evidence, as of offenses against the law.
of or relating to detection or detectives:
a detective story.
serving to detect; detecting:
various detective devices.
Origin of detective
1830-40; detect + -ive Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for detective
  • You're a detective at a crime scene with no visible evidence.
  • Even guessing at its scope requires economic detective work.
  • While the label may still apply, pioneering dental detective work has revealed unexpected news about the species' dietary variety.
  • Each lesson will be devoted to an observation culled from among the many exploits of the great detective.
  • Thus, this genealogical detective story also becomes part memoir, part family chronicle and part history lesson.
  • Electronic device would play audio clues while your detective chased the thief around the board.
  • It is the grist for irrational conspiratorial thinking as well as the food for good detective work.
  • In his spare time, mostly before breakfast, he writes bestselling detective thrillers.
  • Do some digital detective work to find the origin of each spice or herb.
  • So it is real fun detective work and the kids seem to really enjoy it too.
British Dictionary definitions for detective


  1. a police officer who investigates crimes
  2. See private detective
  3. (as modifier): a detective story
used in or serving for detection
serving to detect
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 detective

1850, short for detective police, from detective (adj.), 1843; see detect + -ive.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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