or D.T.

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What else does DT mean?

The abbreviation DT can variously stand for delirium tremens, a symptom of alcohol withdrawal; double tap, a reference to liking someone’s post on Instagram; detective; the position of defensive tackle in football; or school detention.

How is DT pronounced?

[ dee-tee ]

Where does DT come from?

Delirium tremens, shortened to the DTs, was coined in 1813 to describe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, although its use later spread to other addictive substances, particularly opiates.

The expression delirium tremens is Latin. Delirium refers to the “madness” some experience in withdrawal, including hallucinations, and tremens refers to the “shaking” people get. The shortening of delirium tremens to DT or DTs occurred as early as 1861. 

By at least 1921, DT came to be used as a shorthand for detective. In the later half of the 20th century, DT was especially used to refer to members of drug offense squads.

DT on the social media platform is short for double tap. In the Instagram app, users can “like” a post by tapping it twice, hence DT. This abbreviation is often used as a hashtag, #dt, as a way to encourage others to like one’s post.

In American football, DT is an acronym for defensive tackle, often one of the strongest and biggest players on the team and whose job it is to break the offensive line. The position of defensive tackle has been abbreviated as DT since at least the 1960s.

If you act up in class, you might get hit with a school DT, or detention,  a tried-and-true tactic that schools the world over use to discipline students. In DT, usually held outside school hours, you might have to do extra schoolwork or, if you’re Bart from the Simpsons, write out lines on the chalkboard.

How is DT used in real life?

In the context of drug and alcohol use and rehabilitation, the DTs most often refer to delirium tremens—although it could possibly refer to the detective (DT) who is investigating drug use or dealing.

On Instagram, people might ask for #dt or #DoubleTaps to get more likes on their content. They also use the hashtag #dt to express appreciation for something, such as their favorite sports team or celebrity.

In the world of American (as well as Canadian) football, a DT, for defensive tackle, is a key player on the defensive line.

If you get a DT, sometimes modified with the descriptor school, it means detention. As glamorous as The Breakfast Club makes them seem, DTs aren’t usually so fun and life-changing.

DT has also become an online shorthand way for people to refer to President Donald Trump.

More examples of DT:

“The defensive tackles (DT) line up inside the defensive ends (DE).”
—Howie Long & John Czarnecki, Football for Dummies, 2011


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use DT in a sentence

Medical definitions for DT


delirium tremens
duration tetany
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.