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[surch] /sɜrtʃ/
verb (used with object)
to go or look through (a place, area, etc.) carefully in order to find something missing or lost:
They searched the woods for the missing child. I searched the desk for the letter.
to look at or examine (a person, object, etc.) carefully in order to find something concealed:
He searched the vase for signs of a crack. The police searched the suspect for weapons.
to explore or examine in order to discover:
They searched the hills for gold.
to look at, read, or examine (a record, writing, collection, repository, etc.) for information:
to search a property title; He searched the courthouse for a record of the deed to the land.
to look at or beneath the superficial aspects of to discover a motive, reaction, feeling, basic truth, etc.:
He searched her face for a clue to her true feelings.
to look into, question, or scrutinize:
She searched her conscience.
(of natural elements) to pierce or penetrate:
The sunlight searched the room's dark corners.
to uncover or find by examination or exploration (often followed by out):
to search out all the facts.
Military. to fire artillery over (an area) with successive changes in gun elevation.
Computers. to electronically retrieve data, Web pages, database records, or other information from (files, databases, etc.) by typing relevant terms into a search engine or other search tool:
Most of us have searched the Internet for medical advice.
verb (used without object)
to inquire, investigate, examine, or seek; conduct an examination or investigation.
  1. the act of searching; careful examination or investigation:
    Her date with the guy she met online went badly, so her search for “Mr. Right” continues.
  2. an instance of this:
    Did the search turn up any clues?
the practice, on the part of naval officers of a belligerent nation, of boarding and examining a suspected neutral vessel at sea in order to ascertain its true nationality and determine if it is carrying contraband:
the right of visit and search.
Computers. the act or process of electronically retrieving data, Web pages, database records, or other information from files, databases, etc., as in Boolean search; keyword search:
A search of the article turned up two references to my company.
search me, I don't know:
Why has it taken so long to reach a decision? Search me.
Origin of search
1300-50; (v.) Middle English serchen, cerchen (< Anglo-French sercher) < Old French cerchier < Late Latin circāre to go around, derivative of Latin circus circle; (noun) Middle English serche < Anglo-French serche, Old French cerche, derivative of cerchier
Related forms
searchable, adjective
searchableness, noun
searcher, noun
outsearch, verb (used with object)
presearch, noun, verb (used with object)
undersearch, noun
unsearched, adjective
well-searched, adjective
1. investigate. 2. inspect. 12. inspection, scrutiny. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for search
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Since he went to Salamis in search of you, I have not seen him until late this evening.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • It was thus Billy Brue found him at the end of his second day's search.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • He began to think busily, and finally resolved to go to the island and search for him.

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
  • The History of Man is the record of a hungry creature in search of food.

    Ancient Man Hendrik Willem van Loon
  • The first place to search, of course, was the home of the old people.

British Dictionary definitions for search


to look through (a place, records, etc) thoroughly in order to find someone or something
(transitive) to examine (a person) for concealed objects by running one's hands over the clothing
to look at or examine (something) closely: to search one's conscience
(transitive) foll by out. to discover by investigation
  1. to explore (a bodily cavity) during a surgical procedure
  2. to probe (a wound)
(transitive) (military) to fire all over (an area)
(computing) to review (a file) to locate specific information
(archaic) to penetrate
(informal) search me, I don't know
the act or an instance of searching
the examination of a vessel by the right of search
  1. a review of a file to locate specific information
  2. (as modifier): a search routine
(international law) right of search, the right possessed by the warships of a belligerent state in time of war to board and search merchant vessels to ascertain whether ship or cargo is liable to seizure
Derived Forms
searchable, adjective
searcher, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French cerchier, from Late Latin circāre to go around, from Latin circuscircle
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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Word Origin and History for search

c.1300, from Old French cerchier "to search" (12c., Modern French chercher), from Latin circare "go about, wander, traverse," in Late Latin "to wander hither and thither," from circus "circle" (see circus). Phrase search me as a verbal shrug of ignorance first recorded 1901. Search engine attested from 1988. Search and destroy as a modifier is 1966, American English, from the Vietnam War. Search and rescue is from 1944.


c.1400, "act of searching;" early 15c., "right to investigate illegal activity; examination of records, wills, etc.; a search through an area or a place," from Anglo-French serche, Old French cerche, from cerchier (see search (v.)). Search warrant attested from 1739.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with search


In addition to the idiom beginning with
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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