Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To keep from being damaged, attacked, stolen, or injured; guard. See Synonyms at defend.
  • transitive v. To help (domestic industry) with tariffs or quotas on imported goods.
  • transitive v. To assure payment of (drafts or notes, for example) by setting aside funds.
  • transitive v. Sports To attempt to hold (a lead) by playing careful defense and avoiding risky plays.
  • transitive v. Baseball To swing at a pitch near (home plate) in order to avoid being called out on strikes.
  • transitive v. Baseball To swing at a pitch so as to give (a base runner) a better chance of advancing.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To keep safe; to defend; to guard; to prevent harm coming to.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To cover or shield from danger or injury; to defend; to guard; to preserve in safety.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To cover or shield from danger, harm, damage, trespass, exposure, insult, temptation, or the like; defend; guard; preserve in safety: applied with a wide range, both literally and figuratively, actively and passively.
  • To act as protector or regent for. Compare protector, 2 .
  • Specifically, in political economics, to guard or strengthen against foreign competition by means of a protective duty.
  • Synonyms Defend, Shelter, etc. (see keep), screen, secure.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. shield from danger, injury, destruction, or damage
  • v. use tariffs to favor domestic industry

Etymologies

Middle English protecten, from Latin prōtegere, prōtēct- : prō-, in front; see pro-1 + tegere, to cover; see (s)teg- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Attested in English since 1530, from Latin protectus ("covered, protected"), past participle of protegere ("to cover the front, protect") from pro- + tegere ("to cover"). More at thatch. Displaced native Middle English helien, forhelian ("to conceal, protect") (from Old English helian, forhelian ("to conceal, cover, hide"), Middle English bischilden, beschielden ("to protect") (from Middle English schild, shelde ("shield")), Middle English berwen, bergen ("to protect, preserve") (from Old English beorgan ("to protect, preserve")), Middle English mundien, mounden ("to protect") (from Old English mundian ("to protect, watch over, act as guardian over")). (Wiktionary)

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