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

Other Words from prevent

preventability \ pri-​ˌven-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce prevent (audio) \ noun
preventable or less commonly preventible \ pri-​ˈven-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce prevent (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 Of course, just because reinfections are possible, doesn’t mean people should give up on all efforts to prevent them; staying up-to-date on vaccinations and wearing masks indoors in places with high transmission still work to lower risk. Sara G. Miller, NBC News, 16 June 2022 Depositors accused Zhengzhou authorities of tampering with the health code system to prevent them from returning to the city -- and thus thwarting their plans to fend for their rights. Nectar Gan, CNN, 15 June 2022 Thomas shoved Ventura in the chest in the seventh inning after Ventura tried to prevent him from getting ejected for arguing with the home plate umpire. Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune, 14 June 2022 The result is a group of colleagues whose communication barriers prevent them from working well together to get anything done. Tyler Coates, The Hollywood Reporter, 14 June 2022 You weren’t sent there to get schooling, to get help, you were sent there to prevent you from having children. Christopher Arnott, Hartford Courant, 14 June 2022 Urban and industrial noise can also change the timing of birds’ songs, suppress the complexity of their calls, and prevent them from finding mates. Ed Yong, The Atlantic, 13 June 2022 Keep the soles facing each other to prevent them from getting dirty during the move. Mary Cornetta, Better Homes & Gardens, 13 June 2022 Firefighters on Monday were working to put out the fire and prevent it from going near communities, per Forest Service officials. Alison Steinbach, The Arizona Republic, 13 June 2022 See More

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.

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near prevent

prevenient grace



See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for prevent

Last Updated

18 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Prevent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jun. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for prevent


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

More from Merriam-Webster on prevent

Nglish: Translation of prevent for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prevent for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!