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From Middle English avoiden, from Anglo-Norman avoider, Old French esvuidier (to empty out), from es- + vuidier, from Vulgar Latin *vocitāre < Late Latin vocitus < vocivus, ultimately related to Latin vacuus. Displaced native Old English forbūgan (literally to bend away from).


  • IPA(key): /əˈvɔɪd/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: a‧void
  • Rhymes: -ɔɪd


avoid (third-person singular simple present avoids, present participle avoiding, simple past and past participle avoided)

  1. (transitive) To try not to meet or communicate with (a person); to shun
  2. (transitive) To stay out of the way of (something harmful).
    I avoided the slap easily.
    One town was flooded from the storm, while the other town avoided the storm.
  3. to keep away from; to keep clear of; to stay away from
    I try to avoid the company of gamblers.
    • 1637, John Milton, Comus, London: Humphrey Robinson, p. 13,[1]
      What need a man forestall his date of griefe
      And run to meet what he would most avoid?
    • 1848, Thomas Babington Macaulay, chapter 13, in The History of England from the Accession of James the Second[2], volume 3, Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, page 309:
      He still hoped that he might be able to win some chiefs who remained neutral; and he carefully avoided every act which could goad them into open hostility.
    • 2012 June 19, Phil McNulty, “England 1-0 Ukraine”, in BBC Sport:
      England could have met world and European champions Spain but that eventuality was avoided by Sweden's 2-0 win against France, and Rooney's first goal in a major tournament since scoring twice in the 4-2 victory over Croatia in Lisbon at Euro 2004.
  4. To try not to do something or to have something happen
  5. (transitive, obsolete) To make empty; to clear.
  6. (transitive, now law) To make void, to annul; to refute (especially a contract).
    • 1395, Wycliffe Bible, Galatians 3:17,[3]
      But Y seie, this testament is confermed of God; the lawe that was maad after foure hundrid and thritti yeer, makith not the testament veyn to auoide awei the biheest.
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, A View of the State of Ireland, Dublin: John Morrisson, 1809, reprint of the 1633 edition, p. 233,[4]
      [] how can those graunts of the Kings be avoyded, without wronging of those lords, which had those lands and lordships given them?
  7. (transitive, law) To defeat or evade; to invalidate.
    • 1765–1769, William Blackstone, chapter 20, in Commentaries on the Laws of England, (please specify |book=I to IV), Oxford, Oxfordshire: [] Clarendon Press, →OCLC, [https:// page 310]:
      [] in an action for trespassing upon land whereof the plaintiff is seised, if the defendant shews a title to the land by descent, and that therefore he had a right to enter, and gives colour to the plaintiff, the plaintiff may either traverse and totally deny the fact of the descent; or he may confess and avoid it, by replying, that true it is that such descent happened, but that since the descent the defendant himself demised the lands to the plaintiff for term of life.
  8. (transitive, obsolete) To emit or throw out; to void.
    • 1577, Richard Eden (translator), The History of Trauayle in the West and East Indies [De Orbo Novo, Decades 1-3] by Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, London, “Of the ordinary nauigation from Spayne to the west Indies,” p. 224b,[5]
      [] the citie of Memi, where is a great Caue or Denne, in the whiche is a spryng or fountayne that contynually auoydeth a great quantitie of Bitumen []
    • 1650, Thomas Browne, chapter 13, in Pseudodoxia Epidemica: [], 2nd edition, London: [] A[braham] Miller, for Edw[ard] Dod and Nath[aniel] Ekins, [], →OCLC, 3rd book, page 136:
      [] a Toad pisseth not, nor doe they containe those urinary parts which are found in other animals, to avoid that serous excretion []
  9. (transitive, obsolete) To leave, evacuate; to leave as empty, to withdraw or come away from.
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, “xvij”, in Le Morte Darthur, book X:
      Anone they encountred to gyders / and he with the reed shelde smote hym soo hard that he bare hym ouer to the erthe / There with anone came another Knyght of the castel / and he was smyten so sore that he auoyded his fadel
      (please add an English translation of this quote)
    • 1565, Thomas Stapleton (translator), The History of the Church of Englande. Compiled by Venerable Bede, Englishman, Antwerp, Book 5, Chapter 20, pp. 178b-179,[6]
      [] the bishop commaunded al to auoide the chambre for an houre, and beganne to talke after this manner to his chaplin []
    • 1587, Raphael Holinshed; et al, “Henrie the third”, in The First and Second Volumes of Chronicles[7], page 202:
      This yeare also was a proclamation made in London, and throughout all the realme, that all strangers should auoid the land before the feast of saint Michaell then next following except those that came with merchandize.
    • 1627, Francis Bacon, New Atlantis[8], London, published c. 1658, page 7:
      Whereupon six of us only stayed, and the rest avoided the Room.
  10. (transitive, obsolete) To get rid of.
  11. (intransitive, obsolete) To retire; to withdraw, depart, go away.
  12. (intransitive, obsolete) To become void or vacant.

Usage notes[edit]


Derived terms[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • avoid at OneLook Dictionary Search