pre·​vent | \pri-ˈvent \
prevented; preventing; prevents

Definition of prevent 

transitive verb

1 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

2 : to deprive of power or hope of acting or succeeding

3 : to keep from happening or existing steps to prevent war

4 : to hold or keep back : hinder, stop often used with from

intransitive verb

: to interpose an obstacle

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Other Words from prevent

preventability \ pri-​ˌven-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē \ noun
preventable or less commonly preventible \ pri-​ˈven-​tə-​bəl \ 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

The uncomfortable truth is that Australia could prevent all pollution and fishing activities that impact the reef and the corals could still die nonetheless. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "How Things Got So Bad for the Great Barrier Reef," 25 Oct. 2018 That’s helpful in medical scenarios, such as preventing organ rejection after a transplant or to treat autoimmune diseases, but not so great for the average dieter. Mark Barna, Discover Magazine, "Not So Fast," 24 Sep. 2018 Days after the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944, Prince Michel was part of a three-man sabotage team tasked with preventing 23,000 German troops from getting to Normandy, the Washington Post notes. Maggie Maloney, Town & Country, "Prince Philip’s Cousin Was a Paratrooper Who Helped Liberate France From the Nazis," 20 Aug. 2018 Was everyone blind to the fact that this portrayal (or lack thereof) of Asians not only prevented Asian-Americans from being represented in the media, but also perpetuated harmful Asian stereotypes? Yerin Kim, Seventeen, "How "Crazy Rich Asians" Is Making History as a Romantic Comedy," 9 Aug. 2018 Perhaps the outcome was inevitable, a result of circumstances that no amount of good decision-making could have prevented. Frances F. Denny, Harper's BAZAAR, "What People Don’t Tell You About Childbirth: The Realities of Vaginal Tearing," 16 July 2018 Before his return, police swept through Lahore, arresting scores of Pakistan Muslim League party workers to prevent them from greeting him at the airport. Zaheer Babar,, "132 people die in election violence ahead of Sharif’s return," 13 July 2018 The justices of the Supreme Court are not bound by the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, but in any event, those rules don't say the income sources of a judge's independent adult children should prevent the judge from hearing certain cases. Salvador Rizzo,, "There is an unfounded conspiracy theory about the Supreme Court and Trump Tower Chicago," 14 July 2018 Many hope that sufficient action now could prevent monarchs from ever joining the list, which would avoid politicizing the species over regulation disputes. Anna Groves, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "They're beautiful — and in danger. Now, a huge effort focuses on saving monarch butterflies," 13 July 2018

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 1c

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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Statistics for prevent

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for prevent

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

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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 \
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

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