pro·​tect prə-ˈtekt How to pronounce protect (audio)
protected; protecting; protects

transitive verb

: to cover or shield from exposure, injury, damage, or destruction : guard
: defend sense 1c
protect the goal
: to maintain the status or integrity of especially through financial or legal guarantees: such as
: to save from contingent financial loss
: to foster or shield from infringement or restriction
salesmen with protected territories
protect one's rights
specifically : to restrict competition for (something, such as a domestic industry) by means of tariffs or trade controls
: defend sense 5
protect a lead

intransitive verb

: to provide a guard or shield
protects against tooth decay
protectable adjective
protective adjective
protectively adverb
protectiveness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for protect

defend, protect, shield, guard, safeguard mean to keep secure from danger or against attack.

defend denotes warding off actual or threatened attack.

defend the country

protect implies the use of something (such as a covering) as a bar to the admission or impact of what may attack or injure.

a hard hat to protect your head

shield suggests protective intervention in imminent danger or actual attack.

shielded her eyes from the sun with her hand

guard implies protecting with vigilance and force against expected danger.

White House entrances are well guarded

safeguard implies taking precautionary protective measures against merely possible danger.

our civil liberties must be safeguarded

Examples of protect in a Sentence

He had no raincoat to protect himself from the rain. She keeps her jewelry protected in a safe. You have to protect your business against fraud. New laws have been passed to protect your privacy. The forest is protected by federal law. The high taxes on imported goods are intended to protect domestic producers. Sunscreen helps to protect against sunburn. The insurance protects you against flooding. The insurance does not protect against damage caused by earthquakes. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Though there is no cure for tinnitus, Aniruddha Deshpande, the chair of the department of speech-language-hearing sciences at Hofstra University in New York, said there are simple steps people can take to protect themselves and potentially prevent the condition. Katie Mogg, NBC News, 1 Dec. 2023 Every Man for Himself and God Against All by Werner Herzog, translated from the German by Michael Hofmann Linda Greenhouse An Unhealthy Definition of Rights For the new majority on the Supreme Court, religious liberty takes precedence over the government’s power to protect public health. Susan Tallman, The New York Review of Books, 1 Dec. 2023 Two new studies found that tai chi may be beneficial in protecting memory for seniors with mild cognitive impairment, and in slowing symptom progression for those with Parkinson's disease. Julia Landwehr, Health, 30 Nov. 2023 Shifting The Focus To Application Layer Security The need for software applications to effectively protect themselves from attacks using the latest information technology precepts can’t be over-emphasized. Valentine Wats, Forbes, 30 Nov. 2023 Then the project changed again, back to a feature, this time with an almost 200-page script about a group of outlaws and peasants led by a fearless female protagonist who rise up to protect their peaceful moon settlement from a tyrannical regent. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, 29 Nov. 2023 Data will be protected and only qualified researchers will have access to it. Liz Seegert, Fortune Well, 19 Nov. 2023 As the country grapples with a surge in antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents, federal agencies and university administrators are struggling to walk a fine line between providing security on college campuses and protecting free speech. Fiona Glisson, NBC News, 18 Nov. 2023 The goals are to provide fresh air, stimulation, exercise, entertainment and enrichment to keep cats busy, happy and engaged with nature, while keeping them safe inside away from predators and protecting birds and small animals. Nicole Sours Larson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 18 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'protect.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Latin protectus, past participle of protegere, from pro- in front + tegere to cover — more at pro-, thatch

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of protect was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near protect

Cite this Entry

“Protect.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


pro·​tect prə-ˈtekt How to pronounce protect (audio)
: to cover or shield from something that would destroy or injure : guard

Legal Definition


transitive verb
: to shield from injury or harm
protecting public health and safety
: to secure or preserve against encroachment, infringement, restriction, or violation : maintain the status or integrity of especially through legal or constitutional guarantees
protect a work against copyright infringement
the First Amendment protects speech
: to restrict competition for (as domestic industries) by means of tariffs or trade controls
protectable adjective
or protectible

More from Merriam-Webster on protect

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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