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From Middle English preventen (anticipate), from Latin praeventus, perfect passive participle of praeveniō (I anticipate), from prae (before) + veniō (I come).



prevent (third-person singular simple present prevents, present participle preventing, simple past and past participle prevented)

  1. (transitive) To stop (an outcome); to keep from (doing something). [from 16th c.]
    I brush my teeth regularly to prevent them from turning yellow.
    • 2011 October 1, Tom Fordyce, “Rugby World Cup 2011: England 16-12 Scotland”, in BBC Sport[1]:
      Scotland must now hope Georgia produce a huge upset and beat Argentina by at least eight points in Sunday's final Pool B match to prevent them failing to make the last eight for the first time in World Cup history.
  2. (intransitive, now rare) To take preventative measures. [from 16th c.]
    • 1897, Henry James, What Maisie Knew:
      ‘I think you must be mad, and she shall not have a glimpse of it while I'm here to prevent!’
  3. (obsolete, transitive) To come before; to precede. [16th-18th c.]
    • Bible, 1 Thess. iv. 15
      We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
    • Book of Common Prayer
      We pray thee that thy grace may always prevent and follow us.
    • Prior
      Then had I come, preventing Sheba's queen.
  4. (obsolete, transitive) To outdo, surpass. [16th-17th c.]
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, IV.i:
      With that he put his spurres vnto his steed, / With speare in rest, and toward him did fare, / Like shaft out of a bow preuenting speed.
  5. (obsolete, transitive) To be beforehand with; to anticipate.
    • Alexander Pope
      their ready guilt preventing thy commands


Derived termsEdit