verb de·ter \di-ˈtər, dē-\

Definition of deter




  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to turn aside, discourage, or prevent from acting she would not be deterred by threats

  3. 2 :  inhibit painting to deter rust


play \-ˈtər-mənt\ noun


play \-ˌtər-ə-ˈbi-lə-tē\ noun


play \-ˈtər-ə-bəl\ adjective

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Examples of deter in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. Some potential buyers will be deterred by the price.

  6. Painting the metal will deter rust.

Did You Know?

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."

Origin and Etymology of deter

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

First Known Use: circa 1547

DETER Defined for English Language Learners


verb de·ter \di-ˈtər, dē-\

Definition of deter for English Language Learners

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

  • : to prevent (something) from happening

DETER Defined for Kids


verb de·ter \di-ˈtər\

Definition of deter for Students




  1. 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. 2 :  to prevent (something) from happening Painting the metal will deter rust.

Seen and Heard

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


to cast off or become cast off

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