Definition of sleuth in US English:



  • A detective.

    • ‘Amateur sleuths will be able to record footage of gang ringleaders and other yobs in action, which can then be used by police as evidence in court.’
    • ‘But in the meantime, if any amateur or professional sleuths are inclined to start digging, they might find some very interesting answers.’
    • ‘Amateur sleuths will be needed to solve a murder most foul at Marble Hill and Chiswick House this weekend.’
    • ‘Corporate tax sleuths got hold of this and are now using it in a convoluted way to avoid U.S. taxes altogether on profits they make from foreign operations.’
    • ‘Fictional sleuth Sherlock Holmes is credited with first realising the value of soil in criminal investigations.’
    • ‘Super sleuth children put their detective skills to the test to solve a murder.’
    • ‘An amateur psychologist as well as a sleuth, O'Neill will not be so easily taken in.’
    • ‘But instead of tracking spies, these sleuths are out to expose surly salespeople to improve the country's standards of customer service.’
    • ‘It presents cases that have baffled police - and which are unlikely to ever be resolved - for amateur sleuths to examine.’
    • ‘While the amateur sleuths try to piece together the femme fatale's recent past, Betty is gradually drawn into Rita's shadowy world.’
    • ‘It is one of the world's most baffling puzzles, the bane of professional cryptologists and amateur sleuths who have spent 15 years trying to solve it.’
    • ‘But amateur Internet sleuths who read the blog searched electronic databases looking for likely suspects, then posted names and photographs on the Internet.’
    • ‘Equally convenient is the fact that Johnston's neighbour Winston is an amateur sleuth.’
    • ‘Both sides accused each other of corporate espionage, with the city pages of the press full of stories about what corporate sleuths and gumshoes get up to on their clients' behalf.’
    • ‘Anyone of you amazing sleuths care to try this one?’
    • ‘For years, the discovery was kept a strict secret until the amateur sleuths who uncovered the bodies officially announced their grisly find in 1991.’
    • ‘The amateur sleuth in me is immediately very excited.’
    • ‘Civilian sleuths are being sought by Essex Police to work alongside detectives in major investigations.’
    • ‘Psycho - biographical sleuths speculated endlessly as to the psychological triggers and real-life passion which might have inspired her novel.’
    • ‘The sleuth is usually an amateur or a consulting detective.’
    private detective, detective, private investigator, investigator
    View synonyms


[no object]often as noun sleuthing
  • 1Carry out a search or investigation in the manner of a detective.

    ‘scientists began their genetic sleuthing for honey mushrooms four years ago’
    • ‘But as the body count rises and thefts occur, the ship's crew begs for Elsa to get involved - and the naturally curious writer can't help but start sleuthing.’
    • ‘After his interesting encounter at the auto shop, Carl was already not looking forward to more sleuthing.’
    • ‘Students across the country are sleuthing around schools to see if they're using the right lightbulbs for energy efficiency or recycling to save landfill space.’
    • ‘‘You and Mr. Mackenzie seem to be familiar with crime sleuthing,’ Moretti remarked levelly.’
    • ‘In fact, some of my favorite things are vintage finds that my husband, Don, and I sleuthed out while on trips to out-of-the-way shops or during stolen afternoons at our local haunts.’
    • ‘In New York there's sleuthing for clues about a woman with long black hair and a frantic discussion of what might have happened to her.’
    • ‘Where would that leave old-fashioned sleuthing?’
    • ‘A series of grisly killings in the slums of the old town district had gone unsolved for so long that my expertise was once again required to sleuth out the culprit.’
    • ‘Les Vasey used to be a top Bradford policeman, sleuthing out villains, but since his retirement ten years ago his target has been the rise in sexually transmitted diseases.’
    • ‘Carson, her father, had once been a district attorney and this blonde American teenager had a natural ability for sleuthing.’
    • ‘Isabel, morally obliged to act, starts sleuthing.’
    • ‘Carpenter has tapped one of his officers who previously expressed an interest in computer sleuthing to specialize in cyber crimes.’
    • ‘They've singled out rising stars to watch and sleuthed for bargain events.’
    • ‘With a little more sleuthing, I found out who owned the domain name.’
    • ‘‘What drew me to dance history,’ Jowitt remarked, ‘was a very old-fashioned sense of how wonderful it was to sleuth.’’
    • ‘Solving mysteries and diagnosing patients both require sleuthing, she says.’
    • ‘As an organizational agnostic with no agenda, a coach can move up and down the ranks, sleuthing out the shadow culture - all the subtextual undercurrents driving the company that are never talked about.’
    1. 1.1dated with object Investigate (someone or something).
      • ‘But my mother and I, an unbeatable cross-country sleuthing duo, put a stop to the madness in less than two hours.’
      • ‘The lawsuit has complicated efforts to sleuth the chain of events at the building.’
      • ‘In reality it was not merely because a certain police detective was a racist and enjoyed sleuthing a popular boxer.’
      • ‘A week later he sleuthed out a possible explanation: Without intending to, William Finnegan has clarified one of the mysteries of the U.S. government's visa war against foreign artists.’
      • ‘It's the tale of two contemporary literary academics sleuthing their way into a long lost love affair, and is utterly laden with coincidence.’


Middle English (originally in the sense ‘track’, in sleuth-hound): from Old Norse slóth; compare with slot. Current senses date from the late 19th century.