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.
  3. to explore or examine in order to discover: They searched the hills for gold.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. to look into, question, or scrutinize: She searched her conscience.
  7. (of natural elements) to pierce or penetrate: The sunlight searched the room’s dark corners.
  8. to uncover or find by examination or exploration (often followed by out): to search out all the facts.
  9. Military. to fire artillery over (an area) with successive changes in gun elevation.
  10. Computers. 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.


    1. 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.
    2. 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.
  2. Computers. 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.


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


  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
  3. to look at or examine (something) closelyto search one’s conscience
  4. (tr foll by out) to discover by investigation
  5. surgery
    1. to explore (a bodily cavity) during a surgical procedure
    2. to probe (a wound)
  6. (tr) military to fire all over (an area)
  7. computing to review (a file) to locate specific information
  8. archaic to penetrate
  9. 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
  3. computing
    1. a review of a file to locate specific information
    2. (as modifier)a search routine
  4. 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

v.c.1300, from Old French cerchier “to search” (12c., Modern French chercher), from Latin circare “go about, wander, traverse,” in Late Latin “to wander hither and thither,” from circus “circle” (see circus). Phrase search me as a verbal shrug of ignorance first recorded 1901. Search engine attested from 1988. Search and destroy as a modifier is 1966, American English, from the Vietnam War. Search and rescue is from 1944. n.c.1400, “act of searching;” early 15c., “right to investigate illegal activity; examination of records, wills, etc.; a search through an area or a place,” from Anglo-French serche, Old French cerche, from cerchier (see search (v.)). Search warrant attested from 1739. In addition to the idiom beginning with search

  • search me
  • also see:

  • high and low, search
  • in search of
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