in·​hib·​it in-ˈhi-bət How to pronounce inhibit (audio)
inhibited; inhibiting; inhibits

transitive verb

: to prohibit from doing something
: to hold in check : restrain
: to discourage from free or spontaneous activity especially through the operation of inner psychological or external social constraints
inhibitive adjective
inhibitory adjective
Choose the Right Synonym for inhibit

forbid, prohibit, interdict, inhibit mean to debar one from doing something or to order that something not be done.

forbid implies that the order is from one in authority and that obedience is expected.

smoking is forbidden in the building

prohibit suggests the issuing of laws, statutes, or regulations.

prohibited the sale of liquor

interdict implies prohibition by civil or ecclesiastical authority usually for a given time or a declared purpose.

practices interdicted by the church

inhibit implies restraints or restrictions that amount to prohibitions, not only by authority but also by the exigencies of the time or situation.

conditions inhibiting the growth of free trade

Example Sentences

You shouldn't allow fear of failure to inhibit you. He was inhibited by modesty. Fear can inhibit people from expressing their opinions. drugs that are used to inhibit infection Strict laws are inhibiting economic growth.
Recent Examples on the Web The factors potentially inhibiting prebiotic chemistry are legion. Mario Livio, Scientific American, 19 Apr. 2023 High levels of inflammatory markers like interleukin 6 and tumor necrosis factor inhibit the natural rhythm of the sleep-wake cycle, Wirth says. Erin Prater, Fortune Well, 18 Mar. 2023 Los Angeles is more than $20 million over the cap, and there's only so much restructuring the team can do without inhibiting its future flexibility. Michael Middlehurst-schwartz, USA TODAY, 27 Feb. 2023 The publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society described how the Leibniz Institute team team applied the liquid from Pseudomonas cultures to Hydrangea macrophylla leaves and saw how this liquid alone could inhibit the growth of Botrytis cinerea. Bruce Y. Lee, Forbes, 11 Feb. 2023 Any type of cumulus cloud within 10 nautical miles (18.5 kilometers) of the flight path will also inhibit a launch. Britley Ritz, CNN, 26 Aug. 2022 There are interstate fights over the siting of transmission lines, supply chain challenges slowing shipments of equipment and bureaucratic snags that are inhibiting the permitting. Evan Halper, Washington Post, 17 May 2023 Under the area of high pressure, storms have trouble developing or sustaining severe levels due to sinking air, which inhibits thunderstorm growth. Haley Brink, CNN, 8 May 2023 However, researchers have developed another drug that inhibits proteins with T790M and other EGFR mutations more broadly, improving survival for patients with these types of lung cancers. Monika Joshi, The Conversation, 1 May 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'inhibit.' 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 Latin inhibitus, past participle of inhibēre, from in- in- entry 2 + habēre to have — more at habit entry 1

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near inhibit

Cite this Entry

“Inhibit.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


in·​hib·​it in-ˈhib-ət How to pronounce inhibit (audio)
: to prevent or hold back from doing something : restrain, repress
fear can inhibit the natural expression of feelings
: to prevent or slow down the activity or occurrence of
oil inhibits rust
a drug which inhibits an infection
-ə-ˌtōr-ē How to pronounce inhibit (audio)

Medical Definition


transitive verb
in·​hib·​it in-ˈhib-ət How to pronounce inhibit (audio)
: to restrain from free or spontaneous activity especially through the operation of inner psychological or external social constraints
an inhibited person
: to check or restrain the force or vitality of
inhibit aggressive tendencies
: to reduce or suppress the activity of
a presynaptic neuron can not only excite a postsynaptic neuron but can also inhibit itH. W. Kendler
: to retard or prevent the formation of
: to retard, interfere with, or prevent (a process or reaction)
inhibit ovulation

More from Merriam-Webster on inhibit

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