Definition of prevent in English:

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Pronunciation: /prəˈvent/


[with object]
1Keep (something) from happening or arising: action must be taken to prevent further accidents
More example sentences
  • Too often one finds that two or three players make the same runs into space when a little bit of thought would have prevented it happening.
  • Anything that can prevent a tragedy from happening should be carefully adhered to.
  • The prime focus for us is to prevent them happening in the first place.
1.1Make (someone or something) unable to do something: window locks won’t prevent a determined burglar from getting in
More example sentences
  • Several neighbours rushed to help the Brownes but they were unable to prevent the men escaping.
  • Once home, Charlie's connection to family prevents him from collapsing in racial self-hatred when he is unable to find work.
  • But on the margin, it prevents a lot of people from taking steps that might lead to bankruptcy and deprivation.
2 archaic (Of God) go before (someone) with spiritual guidance and help.
Example sentences
  • The abiding Spirit prevents a humanistic, rationalistic understanding of truth.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'act in anticipation of'): from Latin praevent- 'preceded, hindered', from the verb praevenire, from prae 'before' + venire 'come'.

  • People originally used prevent to mean ‘to act in anticipation of or in preparation for something’, as in the 17th-century poet George Herbert's lines ‘Thus we prevent the last great day, / And judge our selves.’ Similarly, you could once talk about preventing someone's wishes or desires, for anticipating them. The word comes from Latin praevenire ‘to precede or hinder’. In time to prevent something was to thwart someone's plans, from which developed the idea of stopping something from happening. Prevention is better than cure dates from the 17th century. An early example comes from 1618: ‘Prevention is so much better than healing, because it saves the labour of being sick.’

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pre·vent

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