From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search





Back-formation from intervention, and/or from Latin interveniō (come between, verb).





intervene (third-person singular simple present intervenes, present participle intervening, simple past and past participle intervened)

  1. (intransitive) To become involved in a situation, so as to alter or prevent an action.
    Synonyms: interfere, step in
    The police had to be called to intervene in the fight.
  2. (intransitive) To occur, fall, or come between, points of time, or events.
    An instant intervened between the flash and the report.
    I hadn't seen him since we were in school, and the intervening years had not been kind to him.
    • 1689 December (indicated as 1690), [John Locke], “Chapter 16”, in Two Treatises of Government: [], London: [] Awnsham Churchill, [], →OCLC, book II, page 417:
      [] it is plain, that shaking off a Power, which Force, and not Right, hath set over any one, though it hath the Name of Rebellion; yet is no Offence before God, but that which he allows and countenances, though even Promises and Covenants, when obtain’d by force, have intervened.
    • 1794, Ann Radcliffe, chapter 4, in The Mysteries of Udolpho[2], volume 1, London: G.G. and J. Robinson, page 93:
      Even sad vicissitude amus’d his soul;
      And if a sigh would sometimes intervene,
      And down his cheek a tear of pity roll,
      A sigh, a tear, so sweet, he wish’d not to controul.
    • 1813 January 27, [Jane Austen], chapter 11, in Pride and Prejudice: [], volumes (please specify |volume=I to III), London: [] [George Sidney] for T[homas] Egerton, [], →OCLC:
      She counted the days that must intervene before their invitation could be sent; hopeless of seeing him before.
    • 1963, John le Carré, chapter 17, in The Spy Who Came In From the Cold[3], New York: Coward-McCann, published 1964, page 176:
      [] he was prepared to allow long silences to intervene rather than exchange pointless words.
  3. (intransitive) To occur or act as an obstacle or delay.
    Nothing intervened to prevent the undertaking.
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book VIII”, in Paradise Lost. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker []; [a]nd by Robert Boulter []; [a]nd Matthias Walker, [], →OCLC; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, →OCLC, lines 220-224:
      For while so near each other thus all day
      Our task we choose, what wonder if so near
      Looks intervene and smiles, or object new
      Casual discourse draw on, which intermits
      Our dayes work brought to little,
    • 1719 May 6 (Gregorian calendar), [Daniel Defoe], The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, [], London: [] W[illiam] Taylor [], →OCLC, page 184:
      I reproach’d my self with my Easiness, that would not sow any more Corn one Year than would just serve me till the next Season, as if no Accident could intervene to prevent my enjoying the Crop that was upon the Ground;
    • 1881–1882, Robert Louis Stevenson, chapter 23, in Treasure Island, London, Paris: Cassell & Company, published 14 November 1883, →OCLC:
      [] a numbness, an occasional stupor, fell upon my mind even in the midst of my terrors, until sleep at last intervened, and in my sea-tossed coracle I lay and dreamed of home []
    • 1906 May–October, Jack London, chapter III, in White Fang, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., published October 1906, →OCLC, part 1 (The Wild):
      He kept the fire brightly blazing, for he knew that it alone intervened between the flesh of his body and their hungry fangs.
    • 1918, Willa Cather, My Ántonia[4], Book 5, Chapter 1:
      I told Ántonia I would come back, but life intervened, and it was twenty years before I kept my promise.
  4. (transitive, intransitive) To say (something) in the middle of a conversation or discussion between other people, or to respond to a situation involving other people.
    Synonym: interrupt
    • 1904, Joseph Conrad, Nostromo[5], Part 2, Chapter 4:
      Young Scarfe stared, astounded. “You haven’t met before,” Mrs. Gould intervened. “Mr. Decoud—Mr. Scarfe.”
    • 1970, J. G. Farrell, Troubles[6], New York: Knopf, published 1971, Part 2, p. 409:
      “That sounds suspiciously like bigotry to me,” intervened Maitland, sweetening his impertinence with a dimpled smile.
    • 2014, Rachel Kushner, chapter 10, in The Flamethrowers, New York: Scribner, page 154:
      They all talked nonstop. That is, if you didn’t intervene. They were accustomed to being interrupted.
  5. (transitive, intransitive) To come between, or to be between, persons or things.
    The Mediterranean intervenes between Europe and Africa.
    • 1668, Joseph Glanvill, Plus Ultra, or, The Progress and Advancement of Knowledge since the Days of Aristotle, London: James Collins, Chapter 11, p. 79,[7]
      How defective the Art of Navigation was in elder Times, when they Sailed by the observation of the Stars, is easie to be imagin’d: For in dark weather, when their Pleiades, Helice, and Cynosura were hidden from them by the intervening Clouds, the Mariner was at a loss for his Guide, and exposed to the casual conduct of the Winds and Tides.
    • 1776, Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations[8], London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, Volume 2, Book 5, Chapter 2, Part 2, Article 4, p. 522:
      If the profits of the merchant importer or merchant manufacturer were taxed, equality seemed to require that those of all the middle buyers, who intervened between either of them and the consumer, should likewise be taxed.
    • 1839 September, Thomas De Quincey, “Sketches of Life and Manners; from the Autobiography of an English Opium-Eater: Recollections of Grasmere”, in Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine, volume 6, page 569:
      [] small fields and miniature meadows, separated [] by wild self-sown woodlands of birch, alder, holly, mountain ash, and hazel, that meander through the valley, intervening the different estates with natural sylvan marches []
    • 1912, Zane Grey, chapter 22, in Riders of the Purple Sage[9]:
      Venters calculated that a mile or more still intervened between them and the riders.
    • 1979, William Styron, chapter 3, in Sophie’s Choice[10], New York: Bantam, published 1980, page 82:
      I had begun to eye the door and the intervening furniture, and quickly schemed out the best way of immediate exit.
  6. (law) In a suit to which one has not been made a party, to put forward a defense of one's interest in the subject matter.[1]
    an application for leave (i.e. permission) to intervene


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


  1. ^ Benjamin Vaughan Abbott, Terms and Phrases Used in American or English Jurisprudence, Boston: Little, Brown, 1879, Volume 1, p. 641,[1]