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From Old French detenir. Cognate with Italian detenere, Portuguese deter, Romanian deține, and Spanish detener.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /dɪˈteɪn/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪn


detain (third-person singular simple present detains, present participle detaining, simple past and past participle detained)

  1. (transitive) To keep someone from proceeding by holding them back or making claims on their attention.
  2. (transitive) To put under custody.
  3. (transitive) To keep back or from; to withhold.
    • 1651, Jer[emy] Taylor, The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living. [], 2nd edition, London: [] Francis Ashe [], OCLC 1203220866:
      Detain not the wages of the hireling.
  4. (transitive) To seize goods for official purposes.

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