early 15c., preventen, "act in anticipation of, act sooner or more quickly than (another)," from Latin praeventus, past participle of praevenire "come before, anticipate, hinder," in Late Latin also "to prevent," from prae "before" (see pre-) + venire "to come" (from a suffixed form of PIE root *gwa- "to go, come").
Originally in the literal classical meaning. The meaning "keep from existing or occurring" is by 1540s; the sense of "anticipate to hinder, hinder from action by opposition of obstacles" was in Latin but is not recorded in English until 1660s.
updated on October 30, 2020
Dictionary entries near prevent