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 The president’s failure will not prevent us from carrying out our solemn constitutional duty. Nicholas Fandos, New York Times, "White House Signals Trump Won’t Mount House Impeachment Defense," 6 Dec. 2019 Nothing prevents her from seeking more money through a jury trial. Martin E. Comas,, "Casselberry seizes shopping center through eminent domain. Owner says $800K isn’t enough, asks for more.," 5 Dec. 2019 Sudbury parents and other community members are invited to learn more about youth vaping and how to prevent it at a public information session on Monday, Dec. 9., "Sudbury forum addresses youth vaping, prevention - The Boston Globe," 4 Dec. 2019 But if Freud succeeded here, his myopia would seemingly prevent him from seeing others, such as Celia Paul, with the same fullness. Sophie Madeline Dess, The Atlantic, "The Conundrum of Lucian Freud’s Portraits," 4 Dec. 2019 In 1967, a group of MIT students designed a plan to detonate a nuclear bomb near an asteroid to prevent a collision with Earth. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "A Spacecraft Will Follow NASA’s Asteroid-Smashing Mission to Measure the Effects of the Impact," 4 Dec. 2019 Trying to protect kids from every bump, scrape, and bruise prevents them from figuring out risk management on their own. Krista Langlois, Outside Online, "When Is the Right Time to Take Kids on a Big Adventure?," 1 Dec. 2019 Weather might prevent it from becoming the track meet Louisville needs. Cameron Teague Robinson, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky or Louisville? Reporters from across the state pick Governor's Cup score," 29 Nov. 2019 The top secret, private work stint was part of Kate's ongoing Early Years project, which supports young children with the aim to prevent future social and health challenges. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Kate Middleton Completed Top Secret Work Experience at a London Hospital," 29 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

11 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Prevent.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 15 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).


delight or enjoyment

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble tiles that read scrabble quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

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!