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


  • IPA(key): /ˌɪntə(ɹ)ˈviːn/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iːn


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, volume (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.
  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, Part 2, Chapter 4,[5]
      Young Scarfe stared, astounded. “You haven’t met before,” Mrs. Gould intervened. “Mr. Decoud—Mr. Scarfe.”
    • 1970, J. G. Farrell, Troubles, New York: Knopf, 1971, Part 2, p. 409,[6]
      “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, London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, Volume 2, Book 5, Chapter 2, Part 2, Article 4, p. 522,[8]
      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

Related terms[edit]


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