Is there any difference between 'hold' and 'detain' in terms of time "length" of detention/holding, or any other differences concerning the legal side of the two words.

The following sentence is just an example:

No explanation was given as to why the man was detained or the conditions under which he was held.

Thank you.

2 Answers 2


Yes, there could be a difference in this particular example—at least in one interpretation.

In the sentence, detained could be referring to the overall process of having his freedom restricted, and held be referring to the locale in which he had to wait.

As such, detained means "kept from going about his normal routine," and held means "the place where he was confined."

In short, to make the distinction more apparent, it could be somewhat analogous to the following:

No explanation was given as to why the man was arrested or the conditions under which he was jailed.


In this context, no - there is no difference in meaning.

Obviously the word "hold" has a much wider use and can mean the retention of many different kinds of things in many different circumstances. "Detain" always means to hold someone to prevent their freedom of movement. If the context is clearly the latter, then either word can be used.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .