[noun dih-teyl, dee-teyl; verb dih-teyl or for 13, dee-teyl]
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  1. an individual or minute part; an item or particular.
  2. particulars collectively; minutiae.
  3. attention to or treatment of a subject in individual or minute parts: to postpone detail and concentrate on a subject as a whole.
  4. intricate, finely wrought decoration.
  5. Engineering. detail drawing.
  6. any small section of a larger structure or whole, considered as a unit.
  7. Military.
    1. an appointment or assignment, as of a small group or an officer, for a special task.
    2. the party or person so selected: the kitchen detail.
    3. a particular assignment of duty.
  8. the property of an image or of a method of image production to make small, closely spaced image elements individually distinguishable.
verb (used with object)
  1. to relate or report with complete particulars; tell fully and distinctly.
  2. to mention one by one; specify; list: He detailed the events leading up to the robbery.
  3. Military. to appoint or assign for some particular duty: We were detailed to patrol the border.
  4. to provide with intricate, finely wrought decoration: lingerie detailed with lace and embroidery.
  5. to thoroughly clean (a vehicle or part of a vehicle) and do minor repairs to improve its appearance: We detail the wheels and chrome to remove the rust.
  1. in detail, item by item; with particulars: The résumé stated his qualifications in detail.

Origin of detail

1595–1605; < French détail, Old French, noun derivative of detailler ‘to cut in pieces’, equivalent to de- dis-1 + tailler ‘to cut’ < Vulgar Latin *taliāre; see tailor1
Related formspre·de·tail, verb (used with object)

Synonyms for detail

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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Contemporary Examples of detail

Historical Examples of detail

British Dictionary definitions for detail


  1. an item or smaller part that is considered separately; particular
  2. an item or circumstance that is insignificant or unimportantpassengers' comfort was regarded as a detail
  3. treatment of or attention to items or particularsthis essay includes too much detail
  4. items collectively; particulars
  5. a small or accessory section or element in a painting, building, statue, etc, esp when considered in isolation
  6. military
    1. the act of assigning personnel for a specific duty, esp a fatigue
    2. the personnel selected
    3. the duty or assignment
  7. go into detail to include all or most particulars
  8. in detail including all or most particulars or items thoroughly
verb (tr)
  1. to list or relate fully
  2. military to select (personnel) for a specific duty
  3. to decorate or elaborate (carving, etc) with fine delicate drawing or designs

Word Origin for detail

C17: from French détail, from Old French detailler to cut in pieces, from de- dis- 1 + tailler to cut; see tailor
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

Word Origin and History for detail

c.1600, from French détail, from Old French detail "small piece or quantity," literally "a cutting in pieces," from detaillier "cut in pieces," from de- "entirely" (see de-) + taillier "to cut in pieces" (see tailor).

Modern sense is from French en détail "piece by piece, item by item" (as opposed to en gros), a commercial term used where we would today use retail. Military sense is 1708, from notion of "distribution in detail of the daily orders first given in general," including assignment of specific duties.


1630s, from French détailler "cut up in pieces; narrate in particulars," from Old French detaillier, from detail (see detail (n.)). Related: Detailed; detailing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with detail


see in detail.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.