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Alternative forms[edit]


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 them from turning yellow.
    • 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, Henry James, What Maisie Knew
      ‘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.]
    • We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
    • (Can we date this quote by Book of Common Prayer and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      We pray thee that thy grace may always prevent and follow us.
    • (Can we date this quote by Prior and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      Then had I come, preventing Sheba's queen.
  4. (obsolete, transitive) To outdo, surpass. [16th-17th c.]
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, IV.i:
      With that he put his spurres vnto his steed, / With speare in rest, and toward him did fare, / Like shaft out of a bow preuenting speed.
  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 terms[edit]



  • prevent at OneLook Dictionary Search