To investigate is to look into something systematically. If you don't understand how tornadoes work, for example, investigate the forces of wind and find out.

Investigate still acts a lot like the word it comes from, investigationem meaning "a searching into," which came from the Latin for "to track a footprint." It's exactly what you do when you investigate. You can investigate in the name of science, which is to look into something systematically, like when you research how tornadoes work. If you investigate a person, you find out everything you can — and you might need to hire a private eye for help.

Definitions of investigate
  1. verb
    conduct an inquiry or investigation of
    “The district attorney's office investigated reports of possible irregularities”
    synonyms: enquire, inquire
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    secretly collect sensitive or classified information; engage in espionage
    type of:
    examine, probe
    question or examine thoroughly and closely
  2. verb
    investigate scientifically
    “Let's investigate the syntax of Chinese”
    synonyms: look into
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    delve, explore, research, search
    inquire into
    travel to or penetrate into
    examine, probe
    question or examine thoroughly and closely
    attempt to find out in a systematic and scientific manner
    conduct a test or investigation
    explore for useful or valuable things or substances, such as minerals
    search the internet (for information) using the Google search engine
    search for a location and directions by means of the MapQuest program
    explore anew
    beat about, cast about, cast around
    search anxiously
    open up and explore a new area
    cave, spelunk
    explore natural caves
    explore or survey for the purpose of making a map
    enquire, inquire
    conduct an inquiry or investigation of
    question after cross-examination by opposing counsel
    consult, look up, refer
    seek information from
    hear, try
    examine or hear (evidence or a case) by judicial process
    type of:
    analyse, analyze, canvas, canvass, delve, examine, parse, study
    consider in detail and subject to an analysis in order to discover essential features or meaning
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