a net to be drawn along the bottom of a river, pond, etc., or along the ground, to catch fish, small game, etc.
a system or network for finding or catching someone, as a criminal wanted by the police.

Origin of dragnet

Middle English word dating back to 1535–45; see origin at drag, net1, dray
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for dragnet

search, pursuit, chase

Examples from the Web for dragnet

Contemporary Examples of dragnet

Historical Examples of dragnet

  • Our luck is like water in a dragnet: you pull at it and it bulges, but when you've drawn it out it's empty!

    War and Peace

    Leo Tolstoy

  • "Mascola ran across our trammels this morning with a dragnet," the girl explained.

    El Diablo

    Brayton Norton

  • He catches them in his net, and gathers them in his dragnet.

  • Ronquillo had “set a dragnet,” and taken the rice of all the people within reach, beginning with himself.

  • Their idea of hunting for a workman is to dragnet the back rooms of saloons—especially if they're after a Socialist.

    The Air Trust

    George Allan England

British Dictionary definitions for dragnet



a heavy or weighted net used to scour the bottom of a pond, river, etc, as when searching for something
any system of coordinated efforts by police forces to track down wanted persons
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 dragnet

Old English drægnet, a net to drag the bottom of a body of water in fishing; see drag (v.) + net (n.). Figurative use is from 1640s; police sense attested by 1894.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper