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 Bae agrees and says to look to retinoids to help prevent laugh lines around the eyes. Madge Maril, Harper's BAZAAR, "How to Get Rid of Laugh Lines With Five Expert-Approved Tips," 27 Nov. 2020 The alternative care facility, more commonly known as a field hospital, at State Fair Park Expo Center in West Allis was opened on Oct. 14 to help prevent Wisconsin hospitals from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. Guy Boulton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "What's happening with the field hospital at State Fair Park? Here's an update.," 26 Nov. 2020 Exercise can help prevent the back pain common in pregnancy, but avoid any positions that feel too uncomfortable. Garnet Henderson, Glamour, "Enough With the Myths About Working Out While Pregnant," 26 Nov. 2020 The doctor urged Americans to follow guidelines to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, "Doctor recreates what COVID-19 patients may see before they die in chilling video," 25 Nov. 2020 Officials hope that people heed that advice to help prevent large spikes in the disease here. Joshua Fechter,, "'Our hands are tied': As COVID rages, Abbott leaves San Antonio leaders with few options," 25 Nov. 2020 Those can help prevent falls and related injuries, as well as declines in bone health and ability. Kristen Rogers And Jacqueline Howard, CNN, "Here's the type and amount of exercise you need, WHO advises," 25 Nov. 2020 This hot air brush has ionic technology to seal the hair cuticle and prevent frizz. Fiona Tapp, CNN Underscored, "Our favorite picks from the Amazon Canada holiday gift guide," 24 Nov. 2020 This year, there will not be a march through the streets, and while there will still be balloons and floats, none of the staging areas are being made public for security reasons and to help prevent large gatherings of people. Noah Kaufman, Condé Nast Traveler, "Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2020: What to Know and How to Watch," 24 Nov. 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

2 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prevent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 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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Comments on prevent

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