[ surch ]
See synonyms for: searchsearchedsearchessearching on

verb (used with object)
  1. to go or look through (a place, area, etc.) carefully in order to find something missing or lost: They searched the woods for the missing child. I searched the desk for the letter.

  2. to look at or examine (a person, object, etc.) carefully in order to find something concealed: He searched the vase for signs of a crack. The police searched the suspect for weapons.

  1. to explore or examine in order to discover: They searched the hills for gold.

  2. to look at, read, or examine (a record, writing, collection, repository, etc.) for information: to search a property title; He searched the courthouse for a record of the deed to the land.

  3. to look at or beneath the superficial aspects of to discover a motive, reaction, feeling, basic truth, etc.: He searched her face for a clue to her true feelings.

  4. to look into, question, or scrutinize: She searched her conscience.

  5. (of natural elements) to pierce or penetrate: The sunlight searched the room's dark corners.

  6. to uncover or find by examination or exploration (often followed by out): to search out all the facts.

  7. Military. to fire artillery over (an area) with successive changes in gun elevation.

  8. Digital Technology. to electronically retrieve data, web pages, database records, or other information from (files, databases, etc.) by typing relevant terms into a search engine or other search tool: Most of us have searched the internet for medical advice.

verb (used without object)
  1. to inquire, investigate, examine, or seek; conduct an examination or investigation.

    • the act of searching; careful examination or investigation: Her date with the guy she met online went badly, so her search for “Mr. Right” continues.

    • an instance of this: Did the search turn up any clues?

  1. the practice, on the part of naval officers of a belligerent nation, of boarding and examining a suspected neutral vessel at sea in order to ascertain its true nationality and determine if it is carrying contraband: the right of visit and search.

  1. Digital Technology. the act or process of electronically retrieving data, web pages, database records, or other information from files, databases, etc., as in Boolean search; keyword search:A search of the article turned up two references to my company.

Idioms about search

  1. search me, I don't know: Why has it taken so long to reach a decision? Search me.

Origin of search

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English verb serchen, cerchen, from Anglo-French sercher or directly from Old French cerchier, from Late Latin circāre “to go around,” derivative of Latin circus “circle”; noun derivative of the verb

Other words for search

Other words from search

  • search·a·ble, adjective
  • search·a·ble·ness, noun
  • searcher, noun
  • outsearch, verb (used with object)
  • pre·search, noun, verb (used with object)
  • un·der·search, noun
  • un·searched, adjective
  • well-searched, adjective

Words Nearby search Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use search in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for search


/ (sɜːtʃ) /

  1. to look through (a place, records, etc) thoroughly in order to find someone or something

  2. (tr) to examine (a person) for concealed objects by running one's hands over the clothing

  1. to look at or examine (something) closely: to search one's conscience

  2. (tr foll by out) to discover by investigation

  3. surgery

    • to explore (a bodily cavity) during a surgical procedure

    • to probe (a wound)

  4. (tr) military to fire all over (an area)

  5. computing to review (a file) to locate specific information

  6. archaic to penetrate

  7. search me informal I don't know

  1. the act or an instance of searching

  2. the examination of a vessel by the right of search

  1. computing

    • a review of a file to locate specific information

    • (as modifier): a search routine

  2. right of search international law the right possessed by the warships of a belligerent state in time of war to board and search merchant vessels to ascertain whether ship or cargo is liable to seizure

Origin of search

C14: from Old French cerchier, from Late Latin circāre to go around, from Latin circus circle

Derived forms of search

  • searchable, adjective
  • searcher, noun

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with search


In addition to the idiom beginning with search

  • search me

also see:

  • high and low, search
  • in search of

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