de·ter | \di-ˈtər, dē-\
deterred; deterring

Definition of deter 

transitive verb

1 : to turn aside, discourage, or prevent from acting she would not be deterred by threats

2 : inhibit painting to deter rust

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Other Words from deter

determent \-ˈtər-mənt \ noun
deterrability \-ˌtər-ə-ˈbi-lə-tē \ noun
deterrable \-ˈtər-ə-bəl \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for deter


discourage, dissuade, inhibit


encourage, persuade

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The Fearful History of Deter

The word deter is rooted in fear. It was borrowed into English around the mid-16th century from the Latin verb deterrēre, which in turn was formed by combining de-, meaning "from" or "away," with terrēre, meaning "to frighten." Terrēre is also the source of terror, terrible, and even terrific, which originally meant "very bad" or "frightful." These days, you may be deterred by something that frightens you or by something that simply causes you to think about the difficult or unpleasant consequences of continuing. The word can also mean "to inhibit," as in "painting to deter rust."

Examples of deter in a Sentence

Rick Wagoner, CEO of General Motors, the automaker in most imminent danger of failure, gave lawmakers three reasons Chapter 11 isn't an option. First, the special financing that usually tides companies over through reorganization is so scarce right now that GM might not be able to get enough to keep functioning. Second, the stigma of bankruptcy would deter consumers from buying GM cars. Third, GM is already in the midst of a dramatic reorganization that will pave the way to a profitable future. — Justin Fox, Time, 1 Dec. 2008 For some species that deter attack by being poisonous, the goal of their physical appearance is not to hide or confuse other forest creatures, but to be noticed. — Candice Millard, The River of Doubt, 2005 Originally developed to monitor and track cattle, radio frequency identification (RFID) is now the cutting edge in merchandise, parcel, and baggage tracking. It's debuting in stores and libraries across the country as the most effective way to track inventory and deter theft without making consumers feel like they're in a war zone. — Athan Bezaaitis, PC Magazine, January 2000 None of these tribulations deterred spectators in the least. The ancient Olympics remained immensely popular, the greatest recurring event in antiquity, from 776 b.c. (when Hercules himself was said to have founded them) until a ban on pagan festivals by Christian emperor Theodosius I in the fourth century a.d. ensured their demise—a spectacular thousand-year run. — Leigh Steinberg, Civilization, June/July 2000 Some potential buyers will be deterred by the price. Painting the metal will deter rust.
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Recent Examples on the Web

But that has not deterred protesters from organizing mass demonstrations in the capital on Friday afternoon. Ciara Nugent, Time, "Explosive Comments from Trump Kick Off Day of Mass Protests in the U.K.," 13 July 2018 But size hasn’t deterred Higdon ( 5-10, 189) or Evans (5-11, 200). Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan football getting 'thunder and lightning' with running backs," 8 July 2018 Those criticisms haven't deterred Google from its plan to unleash Duplex upon restaurants and hair stylists all over the country. Michael Simon, PCWorld, "Google insists its Duplex AI-powered voice calling is real and will prove it, umms and all," 27 June 2018 The new arrest data suggests such measures have not deterred migrants, many of whom undertake the long trek from Central America to escape violent gangs and drug cartels. Ron Nixon, New York Times, "Southwest Border Arrests Rise for Third Month in a Row," 6 June 2018 But that hasn’t deterred the 29-year-old Lindenhurst resident from getting involved in policing. Yadira Sanchez Olson, Lake County News-Sun, "Hearing impairment does not deter Lake County Citizen Police Academy graduate," 20 May 2018 There are always a million little and big things that can distract, and even deter you from getting to launch. Georgina Gooley, Time, "How the Founder of Billie Razors Is Disrupting the Male-Dominated Shaving Industry," 12 July 2018 While there is some overlap between this administration’s policies and those of its predecessor, the Obama White House never tried to deter asylum seekers by separating them en masse from their children. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump: Obama Was for ‘Open Borders’ – Also, His Immigration Policies Were the Same As Mine," 25 June 2018 In an effort to deter families from migrating to the United States, reports say the Department of Homeland Security is now taking children as young as 12 months from their undocumented immigrant parents at the border. Oscar J. Benavidez, STAT, "Separating families at the border isn’t just bad policy — it’s horrible for children’s health," 19 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'deter.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of deter

circa 1547, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for deter

Latin deterrēre, from de- + terrēre to frighten — more at terror

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Statistics for deter

Last Updated

19 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for deter

The first known use of deter was circa 1547

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More Definitions for deter



English Language Learners Definition of deter

: to cause (someone) to decide not to do something

: to prevent (something) from happening


de·ter | \di-ˈtər \
deterred; deterring

Kids Definition of deter

1 : to cause (someone) not to do something Nothing deters a good man from doing what is honorable.— Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

2 : to prevent (something) from happening Painting the metal will deter rust.

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More from Merriam-Webster on deter

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for deter

Spanish Central: Translation of deter

Nglish: Translation of deter for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of deter for Arabic Speakers

Comments on deter

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


one that holds something together

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