Alternative formsEdit


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 tooth decay.
    • 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 October 16, Henry James, What Maisie Knew, Chicago, Ill.; New York, N.Y.: Herbert S. Stone & Co., OCLC 318438930:
      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.]
  4. (obsolete, transitive) To outdo, surpass. [16th-17th c.]
  5. (obsolete, transitive) To be beforehand with; to anticipate.
    • 1703, Alexander Pope, transl., “The Thebais of Statius”, in The Works of Alexander Pope, London: H. Lintont et al., published 1751:
      their ready guilt preventing thy commands


Derived termsEdit



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