Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


verb di·vert \də-ˈvərt, dī-\

Simple Definition of divert

  • : to change the direction or use of (something)

  • : to take (attention) away from someone or something

  • : to take the attention of (someone) away from something or someone

Full Definition of divert

  1. intransitive verb
  2. :  to turn aside :  deviate <studied law but diverted to diplomacy>

  3. transitive verb
  4. 1 a :  to turn from one course or use to another :  deflect <divert traffic to a side street> b :  distract <trying to divert her attention>

  5. 2 :  to give pleasure to especially by distracting the attention from what burdens or distresses

Examples of divert

  1. Police diverted traffic to a side street.

  2. The stream was diverted toward the farmland.

  3. They were charged with illegally diverting public funds for private use.

  4. He lied to divert attention from the real situation.

  5. They're only proposing the law to divert attention from important issues.

Origin of divert

Middle English, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French divertir, from Latin divertere to turn in opposite directions, from dis- + vertere to turn — more at worth

First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of divert

amuse, divert, entertain mean to pass or cause to pass the time pleasantly. amuse suggests that one's attention is engaged lightly <amuse yourselves while I make dinner>. divert implies distracting attention from worry or routine occupation especially by something funny <a light comedy to divert the tired businessman>. entertain suggests supplying amusement by specially contrived methods <a magician entertaining children at a party>.

DIVERT Defined for Kids


verb di·vert \də-ˈvərt, dī-\

Definition of divert


  1. 1 :  to turn from one path or use to another <Police diverted traffic.>

  2. 2 :  to turn the attention away :  distract <Bagman opened his mouth to ask Harry something, but Percy diverted him. — J. K. Rowling, Goblet of Fire>

  3. 3 :  to give pleasure to :  amuse <Paint and paper diverted the children.>

Word Root of divert

The Latin word vertere, meaning “to turn” or “to change,” and its form versus give us the roots vert and vers. Words from the Latin vertere have something to do with turning or changing. Anything versatile, or able to do or be used for many different things, can change its task easily. A vertebra is a bone in the spine that allows an animal to turn its head or body. To avert is to turn away. To divert is to turn aside onto a new path. To revert is to turn back to a former way of being.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up divert? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 9, 2016

marked by high spirits and laughter

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?

pince-nez kittly-benders spindrift duvet
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.