Definition of detent in US English:



  • 1A catch in a machine which prevents motion until released.

    ‘a system of detents is used to ensure that gears are held in whatever position is selected’
    as modifier ‘a detent spring’
    • ‘The channel assembly also houses the firing pin rod assembly, which includes a detent lever assembly.’
    • ‘The fixed sling swivels have detents so the swivel can't touch and possibly mar the stock wood.’
    • ‘There is a very positive detent for both on-and off-safe positions.’
    • ‘The color may not be to everyone's taste, and we'd like to see a detent hole that keeps the shaft from sliding out of the socket when fully collapsed in the Stow Away position.’
    • ‘Critical parts to be inspected internally are the hammer notches, hand and spring assembly, bolt, trigger, trigger/bolt spring and loading gate spring and detent.’
    • ‘By pushing the safety forward one detent, the action is clear to fire the shotgun barrels.’
    • ‘With the action opened, two spring loaded detents at the front end of the magazine tube are pressed simultaneously which allows the tube to move far enough forward so that the barrel, magazine tube, and forearm may be unscrewed as a unit.’
    • ‘Within the gearbox, the mechanical plunger and spring detent arrangement have given way to a pneumatic setup.’
    • ‘A ball detent on the magazine follower proved to be the fix at the eleventh hour.’
    • ‘I'm not sure how likely this really is, but regardless, the Handle Retainer gives a pleasant, secure-feeling detent when the press handle is returned to the upright position.’
    • ‘The motor itself has a skewed rotor like those found in inkjet printers which eliminates the detent torque that would coarsen the feel.’
    • ‘Merely tapping the magazine from the bottom seats it in the second detent, allowing the bolt to engage the top round.’
    • ‘A stainless steel ball detent and spring hold the sight disk in place.’
    • ‘When I pulled back the power levers to flight idle, I couldn't get them up and over the detent into the ground range.’
    • ‘Each flexible end portion includes a latch for engaging a detent in the chassis when the carrier is fully inserted into the chassis, thereby locking the carrier in the chassis.’
    • ‘The support member includes a locking detent that fits within a locking recess in the tab of the shield.’
    • ‘Nicholas twisted the lever past the detent and slowly slid it down to the OPEN position.’
    • ‘A spring-loaded, ball bearing detent holds the leg tightly against the underside of the rifle stock until needed.’
    • ‘The hinge may also have a locking mechanism or detent which locks the two members at 180° from each other.’
    • ‘When the power top switch is actuated to the first detent, the front windows lower 40 mm and the rear quarter windows lower 55 mm.’
    1. 1.1 (in a clock) a catch that regulates striking.
      • ‘If the number of blows struck is different to the hour shown lift the detent & the clock will strike one more than the previous count.’
      • ‘As will be seen from the following photos, the detent, which is the heart of the chronometer escapement and gives it its accuracy, has been badly damaged and had to be replaced.’


Late 17th century (denoting a catch in a clock): from French détente, from Old French destente, from destendre ‘slacken’, from des- (expressing reversal) + Latin tendere ‘to stretch’.