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de·tail (dĭ-tāl, dētāl)
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n.
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.
5.
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.
6.
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.
7.
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,
Idiom:
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·tailer n.
(click for a larger image)
detail
top: a painting of the Chateau of Chillon by William Baptiste Baird (1847-1899?)
bottom:a detail of the same painting
(click for a larger image)
detail

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

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