prevent

verb

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

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
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 If a judge isn’t inclined to prevent the entire measure from taking effect, the plaintiffs ask that the court in the alternative at least bar the restriction on gun magazine capacity. oregonlive, 19 Nov. 2022 No matter the savings, the new commitments will amount to far less conservation than is needed to keep water flowing through the Colorado River and prevent its largest reservoirs from shrinking to dangerously low levels. Sam Metz And Kathleen Ronayne, USA TODAY, 19 Nov. 2022 Videos published by local media organizations showed flames engulfing the top floor of the building and spewing from its windows as firefighters worked to prevent the blaze from spreading to nearby homes. Dov Lieber, WSJ, 18 Nov. 2022 No matter the savings, the new commitments will amount to far less conservation than is needed to keep water flowing through the Colorado River and prevent its largest reservoirs from shrinking to dangerously low levels. Kathleen Ronayne, Fortune, 18 Nov. 2022 Occasionally found in restaurants, the system uses nitrogen to displace oxygen in a wine bottle and prevent the wine from oxidizing. Paris Wolfe, cleveland, 18 Nov. 2022 These dryer balls are designed to prevent clothes from twisting, tangling, or rubbing against each other which results in less static. Erica Reagle, Better Homes & Gardens, 18 Nov. 2022 After washing and drying your car, spray is a great addition to seal the paint and prevent new dirt from sticking to it. Talon Homer, Popular Mechanics, 18 Nov. 2022 Conditions at the crash site just after initial reports came in were unfavorable enough to prevent crews from landing, authorities said. Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News, 18 Nov. 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.

Word History

Etymology

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.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prevent. Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

prevent

verb

pre·​vent pri-ˈvent How to pronounce prevent (audio)
1
: to keep from happening
prevent accidents
2
: 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
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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


The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ