Is there a verb that more or less means "to piece together clues"? I'm looking for something like "detectivize," which, unfortunately, isn't a word.

The closest I came up with is "investigate," but this is far from my intended meaning.

  • 1
    To 'infer' something is to come to a conclusion based on a set of information.
    – Dark Star1
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 1:38
  • This might require a neologism.
    – James P.
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 8:48
  • 1
    We need context. Otherwise people will keep throwing words at the wall at random. Which is not helping anyone, least of all yourself. We try to provide clear answers to clear questions. And we clearly fail at that when you get ten answers within a couple hours, some of which can't even make their mind up and are really, in turn, ten separate answers in their own right.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 10:11
  • There is a defined term for this concept. A valid 'single-word request' question. See my answer. Voting to re-open.
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 10:14
  • I've checked the FAQ and this type of questions appears to be the first recommended point to ask on this site. Some of the answers are excellent quality and the question has 7 upvotes and two favs but the moderators STILL think it's "not good enough".
    – SF.
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 1:11

10 Answers 10


The canonical work of detective reasoning, The Complete Sherlock Holmes uses:

  • reason 71 times (although not necessarily all as a verb)
  • deduce 19 times
  • solve — 16
  • puzzle — 12 (puzzle out — 6)
  • unravel — 5
  • infer — 4
  • sleuth — 1
  • decipher — 1
  • ratiocinate — 0
  • 5
    Since ratiocinate has 0 mentions, what brought you to introduce that word? Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 6:31
  • 1
    @JeffFerland: Elementary! 3nafish has picked out words that he thought might be a good fit (perhaps with a thesaurus?), and then looked for those words in Doyle's work. You couldn't deduce that? ;^) By the way, I'm surprised that observe (39 times) was left of this list. Clearly, Holmes felt that observing (as opposed to just seeing) was an important element of his success.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 10:05
  • It is just that none of these can be applied exclusively and specifically as the verb required in OP's context.
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 7:55
  • @Kris: Perhaps not, but where did the O.P. specify "exclusively and specifically"? (I see "more or less".) Depending on the context, a couple of these might work just fine – more or less. I thought ratiocinate was a particularly good candidate.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 23:34

I might go with something like "deduce".


You might try sleuth:

sleuth (verb) : To act as a detective; to try to discover who committed a crime.

  • As in supersleuth :p .
    – James P.
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 8:49

Consider ferret out, meaning to “search and discover through persistent investigation”.


I'd go with these related terms. Perhaps they'll fit favorably with your context.

  • conclude
  • infer
  • amalgamate
  • fuse
  • determine
  • decide
  • judge
  • deduce
  • I was just thinking of amalgamate.
    – James P.
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 8:44


Crime reconstruction or crime scene reconstruction is the forensic science discipline in which one gains "explicit knowledge of the series of events that surround the commission of a crime using deductive and inductive reasoning, physical evidence, scientific methods, and their interrelationships.

Crime scene reconstruction has been described as putting together a jigsaw puzzle but doing so without access to the box top; ...

[emphasis mine]

reconstruction (Oxford Dictionaries)
(1 b) [count noun] an impression, model, or re-enactment of a past event formed from the available evidence:
a reconstruction of the accident would be staged to try to discover the cause of the tragedy

Synonym to piece together thesaurus.com (2.)

Main Entry: reconstruct


You could use solve:

  1. To find a solution to.
  2. To work out a correct solution to (a problem).

One might also decipher clues:

  1. To read or interpret (ambiguous, obscure, or illegible matter).
  2. To convert from a code or cipher to plain text; decode.

Though I think @Jim's sleuth is nice, in some circumstances, Analyze would be best.

  • +1 Analyze would technically be the correct word. However, people in the field do not use it simply because that word already has a different meaning.
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 10:11

If you're not exactly a prescriptive grammarian and can live with using denouement as a verb as Melissa McEwan does here:

"And then there's this: If 99% of the man who professed cluelessness in defense of their misogyny were actually just clueless, 99% of the "garsh, misogyny?!" conversations would dénouement with a grateful thank you for feminist enlightenment, instead of snarling flounces punctuated with accusations of man-hating and grievances about unwelcoming tones."

then that word might just fit what you're looking for. Of course, denouements are after the climax of story.


Decode or decipher could be the words I think you want.

  • Welcome to EL&U. Your answer would be more helpful if both explained why those words would be appropriate and linked to sources.
    – amacy
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 8:36

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