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

  • transitive v. To keep from happening: took steps to prevent the strike.
  • transitive v. To keep (someone) from doing something; impede: prevented us from winning.
  • transitive v. Archaic To anticipate or counter in advance.
  • transitive v. Archaic To come before; precede.
  • intransitive v. To present an obstacle: There will be a picnic if nothing prevents.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To come before the usual time.
  • transitive v. To go before; to precede; hence, to go before as a guide; to direct.
  • transitive v. To be beforehand with; to anticipate.
  • transitive v. To intercept; to hinder; to frustrate; to stop; to thwart.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To go before; be earlier than; anticipate; forestall.
  • To take previous measures against; hence, to frustrate; disappoint; evade; escape.
  • To hinder from action by the opposition of obstacles; impede; restrain; check; preclude: generally followed by from.
  • To keep from existing or occurring; render impossible.
  • Synonyms To preclude, bar, debar.
  • To come beforehand; come before others, or before the usual time.
  • To interpose a hindrance, especially an insurmountable obstacle; interpose an effectual check; hinder.

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

  • v. keep from happening or arising; make impossible
  • v. stop (someone or something) from doing something or being in a certain state


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

Middle English preventen, to anticipate, from Latin praevenīre, praevent- : prae-, pre- + venīre, to come; see gwā- in Indo-European roots.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English preventen ("anticipate"), from Latin praeventus, perfect passive participle of praeveniō ("anticipate"), from prae ("before") + veniō ("come").


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  • It has two meanings, depending on the time period of usage: to make something happen; to keep something from happening. An ironic semantic drift.

    -Rich Coffeen, The Discipling of Mytra.

    August 14, 2009