The police and dog spent the whole night [...] the area.

Is searching the only word? Or there are other ones?

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    Mplungjan's "Combing" is an excellent answer and I've upvoted it but I'm wondering what your search for "searching" synonyms produced? Which synonyms did you find and why did you reject them? – Kristina Lopez Apr 21 '15 at 16:16
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    The title and example lead me to believe you were on a quest for grid search, not a synonym. – Mazura Apr 22 '15 at 4:44
  • Funnily enough policing in the US military means to walk the area searching for trash etc. – AbraCadaver Apr 22 '15 at 17:44

13 Answers 13


Combing (as a synonym for searching, not adjusting your hair with a utensil)

The police and dog spent the whole night combing the area

comb verb [T] (SEARCH)

› to search a place or an area very carefully in order to find something:
The police combed the whole area for evidence. Cambridge

Weird coincidence:

  • Charlie Hebdo attack: Hundreds of elite armed police comb woodland ... Independent
  • Armed police scour forest as Charlie Hebdo shooting... Telegraph

Also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtkK3eijBso


enter image description here

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    that's the closest! +1 – Misti Apr 21 '15 at 12:59
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    See my update for examples from real life. From Spaceballs: "COMB THE DESERT" – mplungjan Apr 21 '15 at 13:05
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    And we are now where? ;) – mplungjan Apr 21 '15 at 13:30
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    Does "combing" have to be done on foot necessarily? – Kris Apr 21 '15 at 14:04
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    @dennisdeems What is confusing you? Combing is searching thoroughly - likely on foot especially if you have dogs. But I could imagine someone combing an area in a helicopter or combing a high resolution image with a magnifying glass. The question is about searching more than walking since we are talking about police with dogs. – mplungjan Apr 21 '15 at 15:16

Nothing wrong with "searching" but if you want another word, I suggest "scouring".

  • "The police and dogs spent the whole night scouring the area" sounds perfect.

scour (verb) "to look through (as a place) carefully or thoroughly in an effort to find or discover something."

  • "The police scoured the city for the Typhoid Mary of this latest epidemic." MW
  • " The detective scoured the scene of the crime for clues."

police scour bushland for body after tip-off on missing boy

Police scour bushland for body after tip-off on missing boy. From ABC NEWS

  • I'm not sure that I would use "scour" to describe what search parties accompanied by dogs are doing. Dogs follow a scent trail, whereas "scouring" is an action performed by the eyes. – TRomano Apr 21 '15 at 13:23
  • See my comment at mplungjan – Kris Apr 21 '15 at 14:05

Depending on what you're looking for, "canvass" could also work: the police canvassed the area. This specifically implies talking to people, however, in order to get feedback - so it doesn't work in a wilderness setting.


For walking, "patrolling" works best.

Patrol: the act of walking or going around or through an area, building, etc., in order to make sure that it is safe.

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    Patrolling is not searching. – mplungjan Apr 21 '15 at 12:51
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    Combing is not walking. – dennisdeems Apr 21 '15 at 15:03
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    @dennisdeems, combing can be walking in the context of searching for something. You can comb a neighborhood which can be done while walking, or you can comb a building - also done by walking. – Kristina Lopez Apr 21 '15 at 16:18
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    I disagree with claim that patrolling is not searching. If you are not keeping your eyes wide open for anything out of the ordinary, you're not patrolling. You're therefore, by definition, searching. – Kurt Tappe Apr 22 '15 at 5:46
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    Patrolling generally suggests something defensive, looking out for all threats, and, in most cases, you are watching out for mobile, incoming entities. You are watching for any item in a category of things that might be there or might be coming in. This is distinct enough from a search that is looking for a specific item that "patrol" would not really work for what the asker wants. – msouth Apr 22 '15 at 12:50

Hunt high and low (for someone or something) and look high and low (for someone or something);

  • Fig. to look carefully in every possible place for someone or something. We looked high and low for the right teacher. The Smiths are searching high and low for the home of their dreams. (AHD)

The Free Dictionary


A quick search onMerriam-Webster and Collins suggests that there is no single word meaning to search for something by walking in the English language.

If by walking constitutes an important piece of information, I suggest you make it explicit by using e.g.:

He searched the woods on foot.

As for synonyms for searching I've got nothing to add to the previous answers.

  • @choster Thank you for the edits. Seems like I need to exercise my writing skills more. :) – Tarok Apr 22 '15 at 7:52

If you're talking about a systematic search, quartering (see meaning 7 here) might work.


Simply walking.

to follow on foot for the purpose of measuring, surveying, or inspecting

walk a boundary [MW]


An officer soon spotted Long running on the railroad tracks behind the bank, and police brought in a police dog and walked the area around the bank to track him.


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    I see the example. I have never seen it used in that sense – mplungjan Apr 21 '15 at 16:46
  • The context should indicate that it is about searching because "walk" might mean patrolling also in a similar sense. There are a lot of senses of "walk" but this sense is exactly "searching/inspecting on foot" and not by other means. – 0.. Apr 21 '15 at 16:58

You might consider the word scout.

Merriam-Websiter defines it as "to explore an area to obtain information (as about an enemy)" or "to make a search."

Here's an example of its usage in a context similar to your question:

Police scouted the area for someone matching the description but turned up nobody, the report states.



''Traversing'' would be the mathematical or computer science term.

The program traversed the entire filesystem checking for any remaining viruses.

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    "Scanning" would be even more appropriate. – 200_success Apr 21 '15 at 23:34

When I was a Boy Scout the leaders taught us to "police the area" of a campsite when breaking it (shutting it down) before leaving: systematically searching on foot for any trash, gear or other conditions to address. The term is still used officially:

Form a line with your crew to police the area, picking up all trash and making sure no gear is left behind.

So while the term is used consistently with the Merriam-Webster primary definition of the verb:

to control and keep order in (an area) by the use of police or military forces

it does mean specifically the act of searching for something by walking. Which, since police officers do so as a matter of course, and are the main people in society who do so, the word "police" appears in most of this page's responses to this question. I think it's the most apropos term.


You could consider pounding, as it is closely related by idiom.

pound the pavement

Walk the streets, especially in search of employment.

A similar usage is pound a beat, meaning "to walk a particular route over and over"; it is nearly always applied to a police officer. [Early 1900s]

See also: pavement, pound

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

This is more in the vein of the patrolling and canvassing answers, but it is an excellent stand-in when an investigation loses a sense of immediacy and starts to stretch over days. If the search through the night is fruitless, then police would fall back to pounding the pavement to gather evidence and witness statements.


I have heard Peruse used to describe someone looking at items in a store before, which makes me think it could be used in this instance as well, although, it might sound a tad less aggressive than how you might want to use it.

from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peruse:


transitive verb
1 a : to examine or consider with attention and in detail : study
b : to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner


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