fore·​stall fȯr-ˈstȯl How to pronounce forestall (audio)
forestalled; forestalling; forestalls

transitive verb

: to exclude, hinder, or prevent (something) by prior occupation or measures
Negotiations failed to forestall the conflict.
: to get ahead of (something) : anticipate
detailed explanations intended to forestall questions
: to prevent the normal trading in (something) by buying or diverting goods or by persuading people to raise prices
forestalling the wheat harvest and selling it at three times its cost …George Bernard Shaw
archaic : intercept
… he sprang like a cat to the top of the cabin and ran aft. But his pursuers forestalling him, he doubled back across the cabin …Jack London
obsolete : obstruct, beset
forestaller noun
forestallment noun
Choose the Right Synonym for forestall

prevent, anticipate, forestall mean to deal with beforehand.

prevent implies taking advance measures against something possible or probable.

measures taken to prevent leaks

anticipate may imply merely getting ahead of another by being a precursor or forerunner or it may imply checking another's intention by acting first.

anticipated the question by making a statement

forestall implies a getting ahead so as to stop or interrupt something in its course.

hoped to forestall the sale

Examples of forestall in a Sentence

Negotiations failed to forestall the conflict. His comments were meant to forestall criticism of his proposal. He forestalled critics by offering a defense of the project.
Recent Examples on the Web At the same time, steady growth and hiring have forestalled a recession, which was widely predicted at the end of last year. Christopher Rugaber, Fortune, 26 Oct. 2023 The opposition portrayed this election as the last, best chance to forestall Poland’s descent into autocracy. Annabelle Chapman, Washington Post, 16 Oct. 2023 But like its East German counterpart, China’s wall is intended to forestall an existential challenge. Ian Johnson, Foreign Affairs, 22 Aug. 2023 Putin forestalled that prospect in part by securing the services first of Akhmat Kadyrov and then his son and using them as a front-line proxy against other Chechen forces. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, 15 Sep. 2023 And behind it, a grid reaching almost to the top of the niche is forestalling a tall broad sentry, blood-red in color — an implicit reference to violence. Roberta Smith, New York Times, 14 Sep. 2023 That plant — Utah’s largest — was previously scheduled to shutter in July 2025, but lawmakers forestalled the closure last session. Emily Anderson Stern, The Salt Lake Tribune, 14 Sep. 2023 Some observers suggest the central bank might pause its cycle to further it later, forestalling questions over eventual cuts, Smith writes. WSJ, 8 Aug. 2023 The Faircloth Amendment forestalls the wholesale construction of new apartments with federal funds. Curbed, 1 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'forestall.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from forstall act of waylaying, from Old English foresteall, from fore- + steall position, stall

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of forestall was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near forestall

Cite this Entry

“Forestall.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


fore·​stall fōr-ˈstȯl How to pronounce forestall (audio)
: to keep out, interfere with, or prevent by steps taken in advance
forestaller noun
forestallment noun

More from Merriam-Webster on forestall

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