definition of detail by The Free Dictionary

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top: a painting of the Chateau of Chillon by William Baptiste Baird (1847-1899?)

bottom:a detail of the same painting

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 (dĭ-tāl′, dē′tāl′)


1. An individual part or item; a particular: discussed the details of the proposal.

2. Particulars considered individually and in relation to a whole: careful attention to detail.

3. A minor or an inconsequential item or aspect; a minutia: skipped the details to get to the main point.

4. A minute or thorough treatment or account: went into detail about his travels.


a. A discrete part or portion of a work, such as a painting, building, or decorative object, especially when considered in isolation.

b. A representation of such a part or portion: a detail of a Rembrandt portrait illustrating the technique of chiaroscuro.


a. A small elaborated element of a work of art, craft, or design.

b. Such elements considered together: the intricate detail of a rococo altarpiece.

c. The rendering of artistic detail: the fine detail of the painter’s brushwork.


a. A group of military personnel assigned to a particular duty, usually a fatigue duty.

b. The duty assigned: garbage detail.

tr.v. (dĭ-tāl′) de·tailed, de·tail·ing, de·tails

1. To report or relate explicitly or in particulars: detailed the charges against the defendant.

2. To provide with artistic or decorative detail: detailed the quilt with colorful appliqué.

3. To assign to a particular duty: “The musicians and other non-combatants were detailed to carry the stretchers” (Peter Cozzens).

4. To clean (a car interior, for example) meticulously.

5. To market to (a physician) the drugs sold by one’s company,


in detail

With attention to particulars; thoroughly or meticulously: explained her proposal in detail.

[French détail, from Old French detail, a piece cut off, from detaillir, to cut up : de-, de- + tailler, taillier, to cut; see tailor.]

de·tail′er n.

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.




1. an item or smaller part that is considered separately; particular

2. an item or circumstance that is insignificant or unimportant: passengers’ comfort was regarded as a detail.

3. treatment of or attention to items or particulars: this essay includes too much detail.

4. items collectively; particulars

5. (Art Terms) a small or accessory section or element in a painting, building, statue, etc, esp when considered in isolation

6. (Military) military

a. the act of assigning personnel for a specific duty, esp a fatigue

b. the personnel selected

c. the duty or assignment

7. go into detail to include all or most particulars

8. in detail including all or most particulars or items thoroughly

vb (tr)

9. to list or relate fully

10. (Military) military to select (personnel) for a specific duty

11. (Art Terms) to decorate or elaborate (carving, etc) with fine delicate drawing or designs

[C17: from French détail, from Old French detailler to cut in pieces, from de- dis-1 + tailler to cut; see tailor]

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(dɪˈteɪl, ˈdi teɪl)


1. an individual part; particular.

2. particulars collectively.

3. attention to or treatment of a subject in individual parts.

4. intricate, finely wrought decoration.

5. any small section of a larger structure or whole, esp. an area of a drawing or photograph magnified to show what the eye would not otherwise distinguish.

6. the property of an image or a method of image production making small, closely spaced elements individually distinguishable.


a. an assignment, as of military personnel, for a special task.

b. the party or person so selected: the kitchen detail.


8. to relate with all particulars; tell fully.

9. to mention one by one; list.

10. to appoint or assign for some particular duty.

11. to provide with intricate, finely wrought decoration.


in detail, item by item; with particulars.

[1595–1605; détail, Old French, n. derivative of detailler to cut in pieces. See tailor]

Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


– Comes from French de-, “removal,” and tailler, “cut in pieces,” and means “to relate or describe minutely.”

See also related terms for removal.

Farlex Trivia Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.


The basic graphic representation of features.

Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. US Department of Defense 2005.


 a small body of men detailed for special duties, 1780. See also detachment.

Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


– details

1. ‘detail’

A detail is an individual feature or element of something.

I can still remember every single detail of that night.

He described it down to the smallest detail.

2. “”

If you obtain details of something, you obtain information about it.

You can get details of nursery schools from the local authority.

Further details are available online.

Be Careful!
Don’t say that you obtain ‘detail’ of something.

Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012


Past participle: detailed
Gerund: detailing

I detail
you detail
he/she/it details
we detail
you detail
they detail
I detailed
you detailed
he/she/it detailed
we detailed
you detailed
they detailed
Present Continuous
I am detailing
you are detailing
he/she/it is detailing
we are detailing
you are detailing
they are detailing
Present Perfect
I have detailed
you have detailed
he/she/it has detailed
we have detailed
you have detailed
they have detailed
Past Continuous
I was detailing
you were detailing
he/she/it was detailing
we were detailing
you were detailing
they were detailing
Past Perfect
I had detailed
you had detailed
he/she/it had detailed
we had detailed
you had detailed
they had detailed
I will detail
you will detail
he/she/it will detail
we will detail
you will detail
they will detail
Future Perfect
I will have detailed
you will have detailed
he/she/it will have detailed
we will have detailed
you will have detailed
they will have detailed
Future Continuous
I will be detailing
you will be detailing
he/she/it will be detailing
we will be detailing
you will be detailing
they will be detailing
Present Perfect Continuous
I have been detailing
you have been detailing
he/she/it has been detailing
we have been detailing
you have been detailing
they have been detailing
Future Perfect Continuous
I will have been detailing
you will have been detailing
he/she/it will have been detailing
we will have been detailing
you will have been detailing
they will have been detailing
Past Perfect Continuous
I had been detailing
you had been detailing
he/she/it had been detailing
we had been detailing
you had been detailing
they had been detailing
I would detail
you would detail
he/she/it would detail
we would detail
you would detail
they would detail
Past Conditional
I would have detailed
you would have detailed
he/she/it would have detailed
we would have detailed
you would have detailed
they would have detailed

Collins English Verb Tables © HarperCollins Publishers 2011

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