de·​ter·​rent | \ di-ˈtər-ənt How to pronounce deterrent (audio) , -ˈter-; -ˈtə-rənt, -ˈte-; dē- \

Definition of deterrent

1 : serving to discourage, prevent, or inhibit : serving to deter The ads had a deterrent effect on youth smoking.
2 : relating to deterrence a deterrent view of punishment

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Other Words from deterrent

deterrent noun
deterrently adverb

Examples of deterrent in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web And when perpetrators walk free, the deterrent effect of the justice system is undermined by a growing awareness that crimes are likely to go unpunished. James Cross, National Review, 27 July 2021 The $700 billion figure is on the higher end of public estimates of what is plausible, and those larger estimates assume sustained efforts and a deterrent effect of tougher enforcement. Richard Rubin, WSJ, 27 Apr. 2021 This, the paper’s authors suggest, is because any deterrent effect is outweighed by the effects on misdemeanants’ labor-market prospects. Charles Fain Lehman, National Review, 18 Apr. 2021 Cases like Chauvin’s could also have a deterrent effect, some experts said. Washington Post, 6 Apr. 2021 Pitcavage warned that any deterrent effect in the arrests of Capitol attackers will have to be bolstered by follow-through prosecution. cleveland, 21 Feb. 2021 Experts said those decisions, plus the deterrent effect of the aggressive security response, may be enough to avoid a repeat of the chaos at the U.S. Capitol. Washington Post, 16 Jan. 2021 Rhoades said sworn police officers have a deterrent effect on crime — for instance, to keep watch when gang members come in the ER., 15 Dec. 2020 Police agencies often announce checkpoints in advance to protect themselves from legal ramifications and because some studies show the practice has a deterrent effect on driving under the influence. Jeanne Houck, The Enquirer, 13 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'deterrent.' 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 deterrent

1829, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for deterrent

Latin deterrent-, deterrens, present participle of deterrēre to deter

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Time Traveler for deterrent

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The first known use of deterrent was in 1829

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Cite this Entry

“Deterrent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for deterrent


de·​ter·​rent | \ di-ˈtər-ənt, -ˈter- \

Kids Definition of deterrent

: something that makes someone decide not to do something The alarm is a deterrent against theft.


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