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 Two years later, a landmark human study established that if given both to the infected mother during pregnancy and the infant at birth, AZT could prevent mother-to-child transmission. Jon Cohen, Science | AAAS, "Untangling the Trump administration’s lawsuit over an HIV prevention drug," 8 Nov. 2019 Schally acknowledged that argument but said nothing prevents a sitting governor from vetoing such a plan, which could also be changed by future legislators. James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, "Superior Court judge sides with lawmakers in education funding lawsuit against Gov. Dunleavy," 8 Nov. 2019 The threat assessment center was developed to study how other kinds of attacks could be prevented. NBC News, "'Not sudden, impulsive acts': School shooters showed warning signs, Secret Service finds," 7 Nov. 2019 The threat assessment center was developed to study how other kinds of attacks could be prevented. Colleen Long, The Denver Post, "Most school shooters showed warning signs, new Secret Service study finds," 7 Nov. 2019 Cato found that 40 percent of adults believe that government should prevent hate speech in public. John Fund, National Review, "In No Safe Spaces, an Odd Couple Teams Up to Fight Free-Speech Bans," 3 Nov. 2019 During the investigation that followed, Retama Manor staff said an insurance problem had prevented the man from seeing the orthopedic specialist. Laura Garcia,, "Consumer alert: Five nursing homes in San Antonio flagged for instances of abuse, neglect," 1 Nov. 2019 In the counterterrorism world, analysts identify terrorists and then prevent them from coming in, Hawkins said. Melissa Del Bosque, ProPublica, "Border Agents Can Now Get Classified Intelligence Information. Experts Call That Dangerous.," 1 Nov. 2019 Jorjani’s efforts to take control of FOIA disclosures, restricting the information in them, or even preventing them from disclosing information at all was the subject of heated questioning at his Senate confirmation hearing in September. Wes Siler, Outside Online, "The Interior Is Losing the Battle to Crack Down on FOIA," 1 Nov. 2019

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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Statistics for prevent

Last Updated

13 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for prevent

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

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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

Comments on prevent

What made you want to look up prevent? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something of little or no value

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