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Intersect vs. Intercept: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 2, 2023
Intersect means to cross paths or lines at a point, while intercept means to stop or seize something on its way from one place to another.

Key Differences

Intersecting lines or paths cross each other at some point; their primary relation is geometric or abstract. In contrast, to intercept is to actively stop or catch something or someone on their way from one point to another; it has a dynamic, often physical component.
Intersect can be used both in physical and abstract contexts, for example, where two streets meet or where different ideas or interests converge. Intercept, however, usually implies some kind of intervention, often with the intent to stop, catch, or otherwise obstruct progress or communication.
Intersect is a passive term; it simply states that two lines or paths meet. There is no implication of action beyond the meeting point. Intercept, on the other hand, is active; it involves an entity taking action to cut off another.
In mathematics, intersect refers to the point where two sets have something in common. In security or sports, to intercept can mean to stop a pass or communication from reaching its intended recipient. This highlights the nature of interception as an action with a goal to obstruct or alter a course.
Intersect is often used in discussions about paths, roads, boundaries, or other linear constructs. It is a neutral term, without any connotation of conflict or competition. Intercept, however, often carries a connotation of purpose or even aggression; it is used in contexts ranging from sports to military to communication.

Comparison Chart


To cross or meet at a point.
To stop, seize, or interrupt the course or progress of something.


Neutral, geometrical.
Active, often with intent to obstruct or possess.


Physical and abstract contexts (e.g., lines, paths, ideas).
Physical and intentional action (e.g., catching, blocking).

Implied Action

Passive meeting or crossing.
Active stopping or capturing.

Common Contexts

Mathematics, geography, roadways.
Sports, security, communication.

Intersect and Intercept Definitions


To cross at a point.
The two streets intersect at the town square.


To obstruct something from reaching its destination.
Security forces were able to intercept the smuggled goods.


To overlap or coincide.
Their vacation plans intersect for a few days in July.


To stop or seize something en route.
The goalkeeper managed to intercept the ball.


To meet and cross at a point.
The meridians of longitude intersect at the poles.


To take possession of something before it reaches its target.
The player intercepts the pass, preventing the other team from scoring.


To have one or more points in common.
The interests of the two companies intersect in the field of renewable energy.


To catch or block something in transit.
The defense systems are designed to intercept incoming missiles.


To cut or divide by passing through or across.
The river intersects the landscape in several places.


To cut off or interrupt a communication or passage.
The intelligence agency regularly intercepts communications for security purposes.


To cut across or through
The path intersects the park.


To stop, deflect, or interrupt the progress or intended course of
Intercepted me with a message as I was leaving.


To form an intersection with; cross
The road intersects the highway a mile from here.


To gain possession of (an opponent's pass), as in football or basketball.


To gain possession of a pass made by (an opponent), especially in football.


Does 'intersect' imply action?

It implies a state or condition rather than an action.

Is intercepting always intentional?

Usually, especially in sports or security contexts.

Can a person intercept themselves?

No, intercept implies an external force or entity acting.

Are intersecting roads common?

Yes, very common in grid-patterned cities.

Are intercepts planned?

Often they are, especially in strategic or competitive situations.

Can interests intersect positively?

Yes, when different parties have common goals.

Is interception always physical?

No, it can be virtual, as in intercepting digital communications.

Can lines only intersect at one point?

Often, but not always; they can also overlap entirely.

Can two planes intersect?

Yes, typically along a line.

Do all sports have the concept of an intercept?

Many team sports do, particularly those involving passing of a ball.

What does it mean when lives intersect?

It means people's life paths or experiences cross or share commonalities.

Do interceptions always involve conflict?

Not always, but they often involve opposing goals.

Can you intentionally create an intercept?

Yes, for example in sports or military maneuvers.

Are intersect and cross synonyms?

They can be, but intersect is more specific to meeting at a point.

Can intersect be used metaphorically?

Yes, for ideas, interests, or narratives that converge.

Is intercept a legal term?

It can be used in legal contexts regarding seizing of items.

Can intersect mean to cross paths briefly?

Yes, it can imply a temporary or brief crossing.

Is an intercept always successful?

No, attempts to intercept can fail.

Is the intersection point always fixed?

In a geometrical sense, yes; metaphorically, it can be more fluid.

Can an airplane's path intersect with another?

Yes, but with strict regulations to prevent collisions.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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