verb pre·vent \ pri-ˈvent \
Updated on: 21 Mar 2018

Definition of prevent

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
: to interpose an obstacle


play \pri-ˌven-tə-ˈbi-lə-tē\ noun


or less commonly preventible play \pri-ˈven-tə-bəl\ adjective



Examples of prevent in a Sentence

  1. Seatbelts in cars often prevent serious injuries.

  2. Can exercise and a healthy diet prevent heart disease?

  3. The accident could have been prevented.

  4. He grabbed my arm to prevent me from falling.

  5. Bad weather prevented us from leaving.

  6. How are you going to prevent him from finding out about the party?

Recent Examples of prevent from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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

Synonym Discussion of 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

PREVENT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of prevent for English Language Learners

  • : to stop (something) from happening or existing

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

PREVENT Defined for Kids


verb pre·vent \ pri-ˈvent \

Definition of prevent for Students

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


\pri-ˈven-tə-bəl\ adjective

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