for·​fend | \ fȯr-ˈfend How to pronounce forfend (audio) \
forfended; forfending; forfends

Definition of forfend

transitive verb

1a archaic : forbid
b : to ward off : prevent

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English speakers have been using forfend with the meanings "to forbid" and "to prevent" since the late 14th century, and the meaning "to protect" since the late 16th century. These days, however, the "forbid" sense is considered archaic; we only use it (as in our second example) in phrases like "heaven forfend" or "God forfend." Forfend comes from for- (an old prefix meaning "so as to involve prohibition, exclusion, omission, failure, neglect, or refusal") and Middle English fenden (a shorter variant of defenden, meaning "to defend").

Examples of forfend in a Sentence

a place of refuge where the settlers could forfend themselves from attack
Recent Examples on the Web And of course the president says oh, my gosh, heaven forfend that poor Omarosa would have to go. Fox News, "Controversy over the ousters of Omarosa, Strzok," 14 Aug. 2018

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

First Known Use of forfend

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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The first known use of forfend was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Forfend.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Apr. 2021.

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