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

Keep scrolling for more

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?
See More
Recent Examples on the Web While there's no scientific consensus on whether or not blue light blockers prevent eye-strain, specialists are increasingly recommending them to patients. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "These Blue Light Blocking Glasses Are the Solution to Screen Time," 22 Nov. 2019 The season has already been delayed a week to prevent whale entanglements in crab gear, and that continues to be of concern after aerial surveys showed a high concentration of whales around Point Reyes and Half Moon Bay. Justin Phillips,, "Commercial Dungeness crab season likely to be delayed until Dec. 15," 20 Nov. 2019 The idea of a universal basic income system is simple: Give everyone in a country a small allotment of cash each year to hopefully prevent them from falling under a certain level of living. Brian Hamilton, Quartz, "Universal basic income is just a band-aid on a much bigger problem," 20 Nov. 2019 The onions and oil will keep the dressing moist and prevent it from drying out. May Klisch, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Mingle tradition with new twists, diverse guests, for a richer Thanksgiving experience," 19 Nov. 2019 Bowling Green ranks bottom-10 in FBS in creating explosive plays (20-plus yards) on offense and in preventing them on defense. Ryan R. Bonini, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "Ohio-Bowling Green: Bobcats favored in Buckeye State road tilt," 19 Nov. 2019 Baltimore is one of seven jurisdictions in Maryland in which immigrants prevented or minimized population loss in 2018, according to a Stateline report from April that used 2018 Census data. Ian Round,, "Immigrants, led by Jamaicans, slow Baltimore’s population loss," 16 Nov. 2019 Democrats argue the closed-door depositions are essential to prevent the coordination of witness testimony and to limit grandstanding during public sessions. Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY, "Why is Holmes testimony private after public impeachment hearings started? It's standard, legal experts say," 15 Nov. 2019 Keep your gas tank at least half full to prevent gas line freezing, and make sure your tires are in good condition. Justin L. Mack, Indianapolis Star, "For the Hoosiers who forgot, here's how to drive in snow without being a dangerous jerk," 11 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about prevent

Time Traveler for prevent

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for prevent

Last Updated

27 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Prevent.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 6 December 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


very cautious or careful

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Semantic Drift Quiz

  • a twisty river
  • Which of the following was once a synonym for fun?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!