Definition of detach in US English:



[with object]
  • 1Disengage (something or part of something) and remove it.

    ‘he detached the front lamp from its bracket’
    figurative ‘federal strings need to be detached to restore parental authority’
    • ‘After detaching the signed portion, it was to be posted in the same envelope as the voting form.’
    • ‘The offending fire alarm was now completely detached from the wall.’
    • ‘Five mature leaves were detached from each one of ten A1 shoots belonging to five different individuals of each species.’
    • ‘Phaethon willingly agreed, detaching his horses from the wagons.’
    • ‘Waging war at long distance, it is argued, using computers and remotely guided missiles, detaches policy-makers from the death and the suffering for which they are responsible.’
    • ‘Hall, who last featured for City on February 5, has now had the pot removed and stitches taken out after surgery detached a troublesome tendon in his heel.’
    • ‘It has a suitably macabre way of disposing of its victims, by detaching the head and ripping out the hypothalamus (a fairly important part of the brain).’
    • ‘China sought to neutralise Australia, he said, by detaching it from the American alliance.’
    • ‘It would set the strategic direction of the NHS and is designed to detach the service from political interference.’
    • ‘After her brief romance with Dudley, Elizabeth sought to detach her emotions from political considerations.’
    • ‘They were unable to pull the 3,000-pound anchor to get separation between the two vessels and thus needed to detach the anchor.’
    • ‘In order to mobilise people in support of what they perceive to be the needs of the Australian ruling class, the Greens detach politics from their economic foundations.’
    • ‘Do not detach them from the parent plant at this stage.’
    • ‘But on his way back to the tender he unfortunately uncouples the mortar truck, detaching it from the rest of the train.’
    • ‘If the units are attached to each other, you can either detach them and lower them separately or lower them as one.’
    • ‘That will detach the front panel - but be careful not to pull too far, or you'll yank out the front panel cables.’
    • ‘All of the material of this species comprises colonies detached from their substrata and mostly in a poor condition.’
    • ‘Three leaves were detached from the plant and cut along the mid vein into two halves.’
    • ‘If an early frost or a gale has deposited a carpet of leaves into the river, a single iron is often the only way of not spending the day detaching them after every cast.’
    • ‘This, Stuart was told, would give enough time to detach the hooks from their mouths and let them free, with relatively little danger to the catcher.’
    unfasten, disconnect, disengage, part, separate, uncouple, remove, loose, loosen, untie, unhitch, undo, unhook, unbutton, unzip, free, sever, pull off, cut off, clip off, hack off, chop off, prune off, nip off, tear off, break off, strip off, disunite
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1no object Be easily removable.
      ‘the screen detaches from the keyboard’
      • ‘The steel bipod attaches / detaches easily and simply slides into a rectangular slot in the front of the forend where it locks in place.’
      • ‘The gingiva detaches from the tooth, the periodontal membrane and alveolar bone are damaged, and an abnormal gap develops between the tooth and gum.’
      • ‘Look for the white cap, stout white stem which detaches easily from the cap, and the pink gills, which turn brown as the mushroom matures.’
      • ‘But in the course of playing out his spoof, Cervantes replaces the omniscience of the typical chivalric narrator with a pervasive uncertainty that detaches from the parody and becomes, in its own right, an aspect of the book.’
      • ‘Glochids detach very easily on contact and cause intense skin irritation.’
      • ‘The loosely articulated head detaches upon removal of the carcass from the vessel.’
      • ‘The front bezel detaches pretty easily, no tools needed, and reveals some other features worth mentioning. the first thing you'll notice is the air filter for the front intake fans.’
      • ‘A part of the blood clot detaches from the lining of the veins and travels up the bloodstream to the pulmonary artery, leading to a block.’
      • ‘Infected green fruit turn light brown to purple, shrivel, and detach easily.’
      • ‘The nonequilibrium S motor process takes a motor through a pathway in which the motor detaches from the track and then undergoes an unbending motion.’
      • ‘Once the DNA has been transcribed, the mRNA (messenger RNA) detaches from the DNA.’
      • ‘Dr. Hecky said, ‘During these months the algae detaches from the bottom of the lakes, floats to the surface and is washed up onto beaches where it decomposes.’’
      • ‘The front of the faceplate easily detaches by depressing a small button on either side and pulling it forwards.’
      • ‘It is Velcroed to the spreader bar and easily detaches and reattaches.’
      • ‘The Snow Factor is big enough for a down coat and a bivy sack, and the closed-cell foam framesheet detaches and unfolds to form an emergency sleeping pad.’
      • ‘This particular model has RST technology that support multiple size monitors that allows for detaching.’
      • ‘The customizable ballmark detaches from the hat to mark your golf ball's place on the green.’
      • ‘Removable pellicles detach during each exposure, which increases the risk of generating particles.’
      • ‘It was a busy night, our phone was one of those where the base has the ringer but the handset detaches, so you can wander around and forget where you left it.’
      • ‘If you're in any way a regular consumer of news media, you've probably got that condition where, when a word is repeated enough times, it sort of detaches from its meaning and just becomes a sound with no connotation.’
  • 2detach oneself fromLeave or separate oneself from (a group or place)

    ‘a figure in brown detached itself from the shadows’
    figurative ‘the newspaper detached itself from the political parties’
    • ‘In the second lap, 17 cyclists detached themselves from the main field of 110 starters.’
    • ‘I detached myself from my own city, Leicester, and went to Leeds.’
    • ‘There is something rather magical in the way helicopters effortlessly detach themselves from the ground and spiral up into the sky.’
    • ‘And later, when it detached itself from the concrete altogether, the council blamed this on vandals.’
    • ‘You mean you're actually detaching yourself from him for a week?’
    • ‘We wondered had Sligo detached itself from the rest of Ireland and become an island or had the sea managed to force a new inlet in between Sligo and Mayo?’
    • ‘We stood to one side and let the march go by - partly from fascination and partly because groups of individuals were detaching themselves from the main body and harangued anyone who appeared fair game for their attention.’
    • ‘After his sudden death, it was found that a blood clot had detached itself from inside his knee and found its way into his lungs.’
    • ‘In Tibet, there is a separate designation for those who can detach themselves from their physical bodies.’
    • ‘A shadow detached itself from the tree line, and headed in her direction.’
    • ‘The woman, in a wistful reverie, holds her hand round the cup while she waits for the tea to cool, relishing the warm china and the aromatic steam, which she watches as it detaches itself from the brim of the cup.’
    • ‘I tried to pull the bacon out, but I could only grab a slick rind, which detached itself from the main body of the blockage and left me choking.’
    • ‘Five days before arriving, Beagle 2 will detach itself from Mars Express.’
    • ‘One detaches himself from the herd, I note with mild surprise, and heads outside with me.’
    • ‘Later Lynda, Tricia, Angela, Beryl, Ros and Christine were to detach themselves from the original group after disagreeing over the forthcoming film.’
    • ‘And at the very end of the engine's usefulness as a propulsive force, we see a further black shape detach itself from the plane.’
    • ‘Duvessa turned and saw a shadow detach itself from the garden hedge and sprint in her direction.’
    • ‘The postmaster pursued the car but the trailer detached itself from the car in the chase.’
    • ‘One shadow detached itself from the floor and seemed to become solid.’
    • ‘By the time the full disc of the sun detaches itself from the eastern horizon, I can see land, a bumpy darker line above the dark water.’
    free, separate, segregate
    dissociate, divorce, alienate, separate, segregate, isolate, cut off, delink
    View synonyms
  • 3Military
    Send (a group of soldiers or ships) on a separate mission.

    ‘our crew was detached to Puerto Rico for the exercise’
    • ‘While in France, the 442nd was detached from the 34th Division and attached to the 36th Division of the Seventh Army.’
    • ‘Yamamoto's Midway Force had also detached a powerful Aleutian Screening Force to act as distant cover for Kakuta but this was withdrawn when the battle off Midway failed to go Yamamoto's way.’
    • ‘The square was then modified so that an element could be detached, marched to be adjacent to the enemy, and the enemy flanked.’
    • ‘Rear Admiral Sakazawa detached Honor from the offensive in Sutran to scout the unknown wormhole in the system.’


Late 16th century (in the sense ‘discharge a gun’): from French détacher, earlier destacher, from des- (expressing reversal) + attacher ‘attach’.