pre·​vent pri-ˈvent How to pronounce prevent (audio)
prevented; preventing; prevents

transitive verb

: to keep from happening or existing
steps to prevent war
: to hold or keep back : hinder, stop
often used with from
: to deprive of power or hope of acting or succeeding
: to be in readiness for (something, such as an occasion)
: to meet or satisfy in advance
: to act ahead of
: to go or arrive before

intransitive verb

: to interpose an obstacle
preventability noun
preventable adjective
or less commonly preventible
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

Example Sentences

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 Chugiak was able to prevent South from completing a rally to force an if-necessary game with a 9-8 victory but wouldn’t be crowned champion until just under 90 minutes before midnight. Josh Reed, Anchorage Daily News, 5 June 2023 The family of Ryan Hitchcock supports the city’s plans to carefully take down the rest of the building to prevent further harm, relative Amy Anderson said. Adrienne Broaddus, CNN, 4 June 2023 Spider-Man 2211 Max Borne is a TimeSpinner and Spider-Man from the year 2211, which basically means his job is to prevent disruptions to the Marvel timeline. Dan Gvozden, The Hollywood Reporter, 4 June 2023 Judge's catch may have prevented a run from scoring, but Muncy was awarded second base because Judge left the field of play to snag the ball. Cydney Henderson, USA TODAY, 4 June 2023 Make sure leaves are dry by late afternoon. Remove the lowest tomato branches to prevent soil fungi from splashing onto leaves and infecting the plant. Nan Sterman, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 June 2023 As well as banning any puberty-blocking drugs or hormone treatment for minors, the law prevents health-care providers from carrying out gender-affirming surgeries, including mastectomies. Molly Hennessy-fiske, Washington Post, 3 June 2023 The state toxics agency initially argued that underground objects, such as pipes or tree roots, may have prevented contractors from digging to specified depths. Tony Briscoe, Los Angeles Times, 3 June 2023 After the Supreme Court’s decision in the case, McGirt v. Oklahoma, hundreds of people successfully had their criminal cases in state courts dismissed, as the ruling prevents state authorities from prosecuting offenses committed by Native Americans on tribal land. Chris Cameron,, 3 June 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'prevent.' 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, to anticipate, from Latin praeventus, past participle of praevenire to come before, anticipate, forestall, from prae- + venire to come — more at come

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4c

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

Dictionary Entries Near prevent

Cite this Entry

“Prevent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


pre·​vent pri-ˈvent How to pronounce prevent (audio)
: to keep from happening
prevent accidents
: to hold or keep back : hinder, stop
bad weather prevented us from leaving
preventable adjective
also preventible

More from Merriam-Webster on prevent

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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