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From Middle English forbeden, from Old English forbēodan (to forbid, prohibit, restrain, refuse, repeal, annul), from Proto-Germanic *furibeudaną, from *furi + *beudaną. Equivalent to for- (from, away) +‎ bid (to offer, proclaim). Cognate with Dutch verbieden (to forbid), German verbieten (to forbid), Danish forbyde (to forbid), Norwegian Bokmål forby (to forbid), Swedish förbjuda (to forbid), Gothic 𐍆𐌰𐌿𐍂𐌱𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰𐌽 (faurbiudan). Related to forbode.



forbid (third-person singular simple present forbids, present participle forbidding, simple past forbade or forbad or forbid, past participle forbidden)

  1. (transitive) To disallow; to proscribe.
    Smoking in the restaurant is forbidden.
  2. (ditransitive) To deny, exclude from, or warn off, by express command.
  3. (transitive) To oppose, hinder, or prevent, as if by an effectual command.
    An impassable river forbids the approach of the army.
  4. (transitive, obsolete) To accurse; to blast.
  5. (transitive, obsolete) To defy; to challenge.
    What part of "no" do you forbid to understand?
    • 1598, Lancelot Andrewes, sermon preached in the Parish Church of St. Giles without Cripplegate, London:
      So there is a resemblance between the partie that here gives licence to come to the tree of life, and the other that forbid to come to it. The one threatned with a sword; the other promiseth to the persons that keep the condition here expressed

Usage notes[edit]

  • Especially when talking about a person, the expression is not allowed to is much more common than the very formal is forbidden to/is forbidden from.
  • This is a catenative verb that takes the to infinitive or the gerund (-ing) when the person is mentioned from whom something is forbidden, and it takes the gerund (-ing) when such a person is not mentioned. See Appendix:English catenative verbs. Examples:
    • The management forbids employees from smoking/to smoke in the office. (Active; those subject to prohibition are identified)
    • Employees are forbidden from smoking/to smoke in the office. (Passive; those subject to prohibition are identified)
    • The management forbids smoking in the office. (Active; those subject to prohibition are not identified)
    • Smoking in the office is forbidden. (Passive; those subject to prohibition are not identified)


Derived terms[edit]