pre·​vent pri-ˈvent How to pronounce prevent (audio)
prevented; preventing; prevents

transitive verb

: to keep from happening or existing
steps to prevent war
: to hold or keep back : hinder, stop
often used with from
: to deprive of power or hope of acting or succeeding
: to be in readiness for (something, such as an occasion)
: to meet or satisfy in advance
: to act ahead of
: to go or arrive before

intransitive verb

: to interpose an obstacle
preventability noun
preventable adjective
or less commonly preventible
preventer noun
Choose the Right Synonym for prevent

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 prevent in a Sentence

Seatbelts in cars often prevent serious injuries. Can exercise and a healthy diet prevent heart disease? The accident could have been prevented. He grabbed my arm to prevent me from falling. Bad weather prevented us from leaving. How are you going to prevent him from finding out about the party? See More
Recent Examples on the Web Niebuhr was writing after one global war had forced the victors to do great evil to prevent the incalculably greater evil of a world ruled by its most aggressive regimes. Hal Brands, Foreign Affairs, 20 Feb. 2024 The exclusive tag prevents a player from negotiating with other teams. Daniel Oyefusi, Miami Herald, 19 Feb. 2024 Incumbents with market power fight tooth and nail to prevent interoperability and portability. Christian Catalini, Forbes, 19 Feb. 2024 It is made of a soft cotton-fleece blend fabric, a zipper garage to prevent chafing and a high neck. Rebecca Jones, Southern Living, 19 Feb. 2024 According to a rep for the brand, not at Bulleit’s two Kentucky distilleries which haven’t been operating long enough, but contractual obligations prevent them from disclosing the source. Jonah Flicker, Robb Report, 18 Feb. 2024 Osteen said during a news conference following the shooting that the incident’s timing likely prevented additional injuries, CNN previously reported. Ashley R. Williams, Jeanne Bonner and Raja Razek, CNN, 18 Feb. 2024 Also, be sure to wet the inside of the mold with a little water to prevent the rice from clinging to it. Hetal Vasavada, Bon Appétit, 18 Feb. 2024 The buffer zone, built as part of Egypt's battle against an Islamic State group insurgency, was meant to prevent weapons smuggling to and from Gaza. Wafaa Shurafa and Bassem Mroue The Associated Press,, 18 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'prevent.' 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, to anticipate, from Latin praeventus, past participle of praevenire to come before, anticipate, forestall, from prae- + venire to come — more at come

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4c

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

Dictionary Entries Near prevent

Cite this Entry

“Prevent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


pre·​vent pri-ˈvent How to pronounce prevent (audio)
: to keep from happening
prevent accidents
: to hold or keep back : hinder, stop
bad weather prevented us from leaving
preventable adjective
also preventible

More from Merriam-Webster on prevent

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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