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

Definition of prevent

transitive verb

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

intransitive verb

: to interpose an obstacle

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Other Words from prevent

preventability \ pri-​ˌven-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce prevent (audio) \ noun
preventable or less commonly preventible \ pri-​ˈven-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce prevent (audio) \ adjective
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?
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Recent Examples on the Web But the ever-evolving guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have made their plans even more fluid. Zareen Syed,, "West suburban high school graduation plans remain fluid as COVID-19 restrictions ease," 11 May 2021 Nursing homes could be fully or partially closed to visitation if just one person in the facility tests positive for COVID-19, to prevent the spread of the killer virus to the vulnerable residents. Fox News, "Droves of NY nursing home staffers still not vaccinated against COVID-19," 10 May 2021 Title 42 is a public health rule implemented in March 2020 that has allowed border agents to immediately remove and send most migrants encountered at the border back to Mexico to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Javier Arce, The Arizona Republic, "In the midst of a pandemic, a lone church leaves its doors open to undocumented migrants," 9 May 2021 The syringes were in limited supply before the pandemic, because they are mostly used for niche applications such as for expensive specialty drugs and to prevent the spread of bloodborne illnesses in low-income countries, say supply-chain experts. Austen Hufford, WSJ, "Covid-19 Vaccines Are Wasted as Special Syringes Run Short," 7 May 2021 Camp staff should double-mask to prevent potential spread, with emphasis on staff that directly handles camp activities on a daily basis. Zee Krstic, Good Housekeeping, "Are Summer Camps Safe This Year? What Parents Should Look for During COVID-19," 7 May 2021 Orange County, Florida, Health Officer Raul Pinto said last week that the checks were ineffective and did nothing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Randy Diamond, San Antonio Express-News, "SeaWorld, Six Flags narrow first-quarter losses as attendance increases after pandemic shutdowns," 6 May 2021 Indoor visits are allowed at Oregon nursing, assisted living and residential care facilities in Oregon counties if visitors and residents follow guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19. oregonlive, "Planning an outdoors Mother’s Day celebration? Here’s your Sunday forecast," 6 May 2021 Regal Cinemas will reopen its theaters in the state this month as part of the company’s global reopening after shutting down its 536 sites across the United States in October to prevent spread of the coronavirus. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "Gritty, tick confusion, barbecue’s back: News from around our 50 states," 6 May 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'prevent.' 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 prevent

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

History and Etymology for prevent

Middle English, to anticipate, from Latin praeventus, past participle of praevenire to come before, anticipate, forestall, from prae- + venire to come — more at come

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Time Traveler for prevent

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for prevent

Last Updated

13 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Prevent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for prevent



English Language Learners Definition of prevent

: to stop (something) from happening or existing
: to make (someone or something) not do something : to stop (someone or something) from doing something


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

Kids Definition of prevent

1 : to keep from happening Helmets help to prevent injuries.
2 : to hold or keep back Bad weather prevented us from leaving.

Other Words from prevent

preventable \ pri-​ˈven-​tə-​bəl \ adjective

Comments on prevent

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