Other forms: detained; detaining; detains

When you detain someone, you hold them back, slow them down, or stop them from moving on. If you are detained by the police, you may be late for the big football game, even if you were speeding to get there by the kickoff.

There are lots of words that contain the root tain, like contain and retain. These come from Latin tenere, which means "to hold." Detain is specifically used when you're talking about holding someone so they can't go anywhere. It's often used in discussions involving the police who detain people who they think might be guilty. But you can use detain, say, when you're explaining why you were late: "I was detained at the office by a conference call that wouldn't end. Sorry."

Definitions of detain
  1. verb
    cause to be slowed down or delayed
    synonyms: delay, hold up
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    hurry, rush
    urge to an unnatural speed
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    engage in delaying tactics or refuse to cooperate
    delay or hold up; prevent from proceeding on schedule or as planned
    deliberately delay an event or action
    buy time
    act so as to delay an event or action in order to gain an advantage
    type of:
    decelerate, retard, slow, slow down, slow up
    lose velocity; move more slowly
  2. verb
    stop or halt
    synonyms: delay, stay
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    type of:
    check, delay, retard
    slow the growth or development of
  3. verb
    deprive of freedom; take into confinement
    synonyms: confine
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    free, liberate, loose, release, unloose, unloosen
    grant freedom to; free from confinement
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    hold and prevent from leaving
    squeeze together
    gaol, immure, imprison, incarcerate, jail, jug, lag, put away, put behind bars, remand
    lock up or confine, in or as in a jail
    deprive of freedom
    bind over
    order a defendant to be placed in custody pending the outcome of a proceedings against him or her
    confine as if in a prison
    cage, cage in
    confine in a cage
    pin down, trap
    place in a confining or embarrassing position
    keep in
    cause to stay indoors




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DISCLAIMER: These example sentences appear in various news sources and books to reflect the usage of the word ‘detain'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of or its editors. Send us feedback
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