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 preventability (audio) \ noun
preventable or less commonly preventible \ pri-​ˈven-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce preventible (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 Scientists once thought that the brain was protected from similar carnage by the blood-brain barrier, a network of closely packed cells lining blood vessels of the brain that prevents toxic substances from passing from the blood into brain tissue. Ellen Ruppel Shell, Scientific American, "The New Alzheimer’s–Air Pollution Link," 12 May 2020 Two years later, using a similar figure, the Department of Transportation rejected a regulation to install bars at the rear of trucks to prevent passenger vehicles from sliding underneath them in a collision. Austin Frakt, New York Times, "Putting a Dollar Value on Life? Governments Already Do," 11 May 2020 Officials there credit contact tracing with preventing the cluster from becoming an outright outbreak because patients have been identified and isolated. Dennis Romero, NBC News, "Southern California birthday party blamed for COVID-19 cluster," 10 May 2020 Moore is the 11th prospect to commit to the Wolverines since the coronavirus outbreak began, which has prevented schools from making any in-person contact with recruits. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan football gets commitment from 3-star Ohio safety Rod Moore for 2021," 10 May 2020 Employees must take reasonable steps to prevent people from congregating in lobby areas, break rooms, and other common areas. Anna Beahm |, al, "Alabama fitness centers prepare to reopen," 9 May 2020 Slip cooking tools and utensils into those hot baths to prevent anything from crusting on them. Los Angeles Times, "The best last-minute Mother’s Day gift? Do the dishes (and do them well)," 9 May 2020 That's particularly true for patients with COVID-19, who are isolated to prevent the viral infection from spreading. Guy Boulton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Nurses may not see themselves as heroes, but in the midst of a pandemic, many of them are," 8 May 2020 That shutters slides over the camera, physically preventing the lens from seeing the outside world. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Why the new Microsoft Surface devices don't have a webcam shutter," 7 May 2020

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

14 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prevent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for prevent


How to pronounce prevent (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on prevent

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for prevent

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with prevent

Spanish Central: Translation of prevent

Nglish: Translation of prevent for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prevent for Arabic Speakers

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