[dih-ten-shuh n]


the act of detaining.
the state of being detained.
maintenance of a person in custody or confinement, especially while awaiting a court decision.
the withholding of what belongs to or is claimed by another.


of or relating to detention or used to detain: the detention room of a police station.

Origin of detention

1400–50; late Middle English < Latin dētentiōn- (stem of dētentiō), equivalent to dētent(us) detained (past participle of dētinēre; see detain) + -iōn- -ion
Related formsnon·de·ten·tion, nounpre·de·ten·tion, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for detention

Contemporary Examples of detention

Historical Examples of detention

  • We had good passages out and home, experiencing no detention or accidents.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • His detention was doubtless irregular, for by law he should have been sent beyond the seas.


    James Anthony Froude

  • That done, he resorted to measures for La Boulaye's detention.

  • He had a warrant authorising her detention in a home for chronic inebriates.

    The Missionary

    George Griffith

  • Detention, most courteously arranged, while the Ambassador was communicated with.

British Dictionary definitions for detention



the act of detaining or state of being detained
  1. custody or confinement, esp of a suspect awaiting trial
  2. (as modifier)a detention order
a form of punishment in which a pupil is detained after school
the withholding of something belonging to or claimed by another

Word Origin for detention

C16: from Latin dētentiō a keeping back; see detain
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 detention

mid-15c., from Middle French détention (13c.), from Late Latin detentionem (nominative detentio), noun of action from past participle stem of Latin detinere (see detain). Sense of "confinement" used by 1570s (in reference to Mary Queen of Scots). In reference to school punishment, recorded from 1882.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper