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[drag-net] /ˈdrægˌnɛt/
a net to be drawn along the bottom of a river, pond, etc., or along the ground, to catch fish, small game, etc.
a system or network for finding or catching someone, as a criminal wanted by the police.
Origin of dragnet
1535-45; Middle English; see drag, net1, dray Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for dragnet
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Historical Examples
  • He had thrown out a dragnet of detectives and every suspicious character in the city was passing through it or landing in prison.

    The Southerner Thomas Dixon
  • Our luck is like water in a dragnet: you pull at it and it bulges, but when you've drawn it out it's empty!

    War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
  • "Mascola ran across our trammels this morning with a dragnet," the girl explained.

    El Diablo Brayton Norton
  • He catches them in his net, and gathers them in his dragnet.

  • Another invalid—my secretary—one flounders in a dragnet of unfortunate circumstances.

    Diane of the Green Van Leona Dalrymple
British Dictionary definitions for dragnet


a heavy or weighted net used to scour the bottom of a pond, river, etc, as when searching for something
any system of coordinated efforts by police forces to track down wanted persons
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 dragnet

Old English drægnet, a net to drag the bottom of a body of water in fishing; see drag (v.) + net (n.). Figurative use is from 1640s; police sense attested by 1894.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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