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

Biologist Khalid Shah, director of the Center for Stem Cell Therapeutics and Imaging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the leader of the study, said he’s not deterred by the challenge. Sharon Begley, STAT, "CRISPR makes cancer cells turncoats that attack their tumor, mouse study finds," 11 July 2018 The toxicity of the environment shreds the quality of conversation and deters meaningful participation in it. Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, "The Death of the Public Square," 6 July 2018 But that wasn’t deterring the suspect, police said. Jared Gilmour, miamiherald, "He was forcing open a girl’s bathroom stall — but a ‘brave bystander’ took him on, Wisc. cops say," 29 June 2018 According to Goal, Sarri rates Koulibaly so highly that he isn't deterred by the defender's €100m (£88m) price tag., "Incoming Chelsea Manager Maurizio Sarri Reportedly Targets Napoli World Cup Star Kalidou Koulibaly," 25 June 2018 While the list of extra ingredients might deter some die-hard coffee fanatics, others can’t help but take note of the low cost. Michelle Gant, Fox News, "McDonald's new coffee 'better than anything Starbucks has ever come up with,' according to Twitter," 19 June 2018 While that is good in many areas, there are a few power user features that are missing, and that may deter some from switching over from their current streaming service until those features arrive. Micah Singleton, The Verge, "YouTube Music finally gets it right," 25 May 2018 Higher interest rates may also be deterring borrowers. Emily Flitter, New York Times, "Bank Earnings Climb in Growing Economy, but Lending Doesn’t Keep Pace," 13 July 2018 But that did not deter protesters, who marched through the streets in the thousands, despite what was an unforgivably hot British summer day. Adam Shaw, Fox News, "Thousands march against Trump in rowdy London protests," 13 July 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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Last Updated

7 Sep 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

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to make amends

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