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Etymology 1[edit]

Clipping of sleuthhound.


sleuth (plural sleuths)

  1. A detective.
    Synonyms: detective, gumshoe, investigator, dick, private eye
    • 1908, Edith Van Dyne (Frank L. Baum), Aunt Jane’s Nieces at Millville
      Do ye want me to become a sleuth, or engage detectives to track the objects of your erroneous philanthropy?
    • 2021 June 23, Carl Zimmer, quoting Michael Worobey, “Scientist Finds Early Virus Sequences That Had Been Mysteriously Deleted”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN:
      “This is a great piece of sleuth work for sure, and it significantly advances efforts to understand the origin of SARS-CoV-2,” said Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona who was not involved in the study.
  2. (archaic) A sleuthhound; a bloodhound.
  3. (obsolete) An animal’s trail or track.
Derived terms[edit]


sleuth (third-person singular simple present sleuths, present participle sleuthing, simple past and past participle sleuthed)

  1. (intransitive, transitive) To act as a detective; to try to discover who committed a crime, or, more generally, to solve a mystery.
    • 1922, Agatha Christie, The Secret Adversary:
      We must discover where he lives, what he does — sleuth him, in fact!

Etymology 2[edit]

From Old English slǣwþ, corresponding to slow + -th.


sleuth (plural sleuths)

  1. (obsolete, uncountable) Slowness; laziness, sloth.
    Synonyms: idleness, inertia, laziness, lethargy, sloth, slothfulness
  2. (rare, collective) A group of bears.
    Synonym: sloth
    • 1961, Noel Perrin, A Passport Secretly Green, page 89:
      As quietly as if I were practicing to join a sleuth of bears, I crept out the door and went on home, eventually winding up in the garage…
    • 1995, Bobbie Ann Mason, The Girl Sleuth, page 13:
      If these dainty adventurers weren’t being chased by a sleuth of bears or bogeys, they were being captured by Gypsies or thieves.
    • 2007, Elinor DeWire, The Lightkeepers’ Menagerie: Stories of Animals at Lighthouses, page 200:
      From the darkness came the howls of routs of wolves and bands of coyotes, the rumbling growls of a sleuth of bears or the bugles of a gang of elk.

See also[edit]