verb (used without object)

to take away a part, as from quality, value, or reputation (usually followed by from).

verb (used with object)

to draw away or divert; distract: to detract another's attention from more important issues.
Archaic. to take away (a part); abate: The dilapidated barn detracts charm from the landscape.

Origin of detract

1400–50; late Middle English (< Middle French detracter) < Latin dētractus drawn away (past participle of dētrahere), equivalent to dē- de- + tractus drawn; see tract1
Related formsde·tract·ing·ly, adverbde·trac·tor, nounun·de·tract·ing, adjectiveun·de·tract·ing·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for detractor

critic, censor

Examples from the Web for detractor

Contemporary Examples of detractor

  • And to simply characterize Koch as a Democratic detractor, and a Republican right-winger, would be, well, simplistic.

    The Daily Beast logo
    'Tea Party Billionaire' Fires Back

    Elaine Lafferty

    September 10, 2010

  • Hayworth has Rush Limbaugh—not as an endorser of his candidacy, at least not yet, but as a longtime McCain detractor.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Thorn in McCain's Side

    Lloyd Grove

    February 17, 2010

Historical Examples of detractor

  • Ovid begins the poem by asking his detractor why he criticizes Ovid's verse.

  • Peter Saraceno has been seized because he is an enemy and detractor of the emperor.

  • Let your strict silence be a significant and salutary lesson for the detractor.

    Fraternal Charity

    Rev. Father Valuy

  • Such are the chief particulars composing the character of the detractor.


    John Bate

  • We may now briefly notice some of the causes which influence the detractor in his talk.


    John Bate

British Dictionary definitions for detractor



(when intr, usually foll by from) to take away a part (of); diminishher anger detracts from her beauty
(tr) to distract or divert
(tr) obsolete to belittle or disparage
Derived Formsdetractingly, adverbdetractive or detractory, adjectivedetractively, adverbdetractor, noun

Word Origin for detract

C15: from Latin dētractus drawn away, from dētrahere to pull away, disparage, from de- + trahere to drag


Detract is sometimes wrongly used where distract is meant: a noise distracted (not detracted) my attention
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 detractor

late 14c., from Anglo-French detractour, Old French detractor "detractor, backbiter," from Latin detractor, agent noun from detrahere (see detraction).



early 15c., from Middle French détracter, from Latin detractus, past participle of detrahere "to take down, pull down, disparage" (see detraction). Related: Detracted; detracting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper