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private detective

a detective who is not a member of an official force but is employed by private parties.
Also called private investigator.
Origin of private detective
First recorded in 1865-70 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for private detective
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Do I understand that this is the private detective of whom I have heard so much?

    The Crevice

    William John Burns and Isabel Ostrander
  • I am a private detective, and I am endeavouring to explain his disappearance.

    The Return of Sherlock Holmes Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The mysterious Morton proved to be a private detective, employed by Archer.

    The Pit Prop Syndicate Freeman Wills Crofts
  • It was given to the private detective who was searching for her.

    The Man Who Knew Edgar Wallace
  • He had all the English private detective's fear of posing as the genuine article.

    Jack O' Judgment Edgar Wallace
British Dictionary definitions for private detective

private detective

an individual privately employed to investigate a crime, keep watch on a suspected person, or make other inquiries Also called private investigator
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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