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 Having this handy prevents confusion over medications and medical instructions. Heloise, Washington Post, "Hints From Heloise: Beat the boredom," 25 May 2020 Misunderstandings can be prevented by speaking clearly and concisely during the week ahead. oregonlive, "Horoscope for May 24, 2020: Gemini, budget your time; Pisces, not all ideas are good ones," 24 May 2020 Sharing the pain more broadly this way might have prevented the unemployment rate from hitting its highest level since the Great Depression while also better positioning companies for the eventual recovery. Nelson D. Schwartz,, "To avoid layoffs, some companies turn to pay cuts, defying conventional wisdom," 24 May 2020 Both Sharpe and Mark Clayton were on the outside, and seeing that the Lions had pushed their cornerbacks close to the line of scrimmage to prevent a short out, both elected to run fade routes to the deep outside. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The Next Ten: Brett Favre finds Sterling Sharpe for a breakthrough playoff win over Detroit," 24 May 2020 Whitmer's order, which can be lifted early, will prevent players from returning to campus through June 12. Chris Thomas, Detroit Free Press, "How Michigan's stay home order could impact football: Five burning questions," 23 May 2020 But those vaccines won’t necessarily prevent all or even most infections. Helen Branswell, STAT, "The world needs Covid-19 vaccines. It may also be overestimating their power," 22 May 2020 No music to prevent close proximity gathering; and no touching of products unless the person buys it. Jeff Forward, Houston Chronicle, "Woodlands Farmers Market to reopen Saturday with extensive changes," 21 May 2020 Delisting does not prevent shares from being traded, either, although the mechanisms for doing so are less convenient. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "What happens to an investor’s shares when a company delists?," 21 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

28 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prevent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 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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