Definition of deterrent in English:


Syllabification: de·ter·rent
Pronunciation: /diˈtərənt


  • 1A thing that discourages or is intended to discourage someone from doing something.
    More example sentences
    • Disulfiram is a well established drug that acts as a deterrent to drinking by blocking the metabolism of alcohol and thus flooding the body with the toxic substance acetaldehyde.
    • Penalty rates, which once acted as a limited deterrent to employers demanding excessive overtime, were either scrapped or severely cut back.
    • To the front of these again is the infamous crash barrier, which should act as a deterrent to ramming but is already showing the dents brought on consistent efforts to get through.
  • 1.1A nuclear weapon or weapons system regarded as deterring an enemy from attack.
    More example sentences
    • First, the submarine-launched ballistic system was recognized as the most survivable element in the triad of strategic nuclear deterrents.
    • France and the United Kingdom each rely on just four submarines for their independent nuclear deterrents.
    • Another was submarine-launched ballistic missiles as a part of the nuclear deterrent of the superpowers.


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  • Able or intended to deter: the deterrent effect of heavy prison sentences
    More example sentences
    • And the legal system generally takes the view that the value of using speech as evidence justifies this indirect deterrent effect.
    • But a great deal of recent evidence strengthens the claim that capital punishment has large deterrent effects.
    • There is substantial doubt that capital punishment has any significant deterrent effect.



More example sentences
  • When it was developed during the cold war, the US-built Trident was regarded as a weapon of deterrence.
  • So it is a mistake to say that nuclear weapons are about deterrence and survival.
  • But the new deterrence cannot be reasoned as a simple re-orientation of weapons that do not mandate use.


early 19th century: from Latin deterrent- 'deterring', from the verb deterrere (see deter).

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