Other forms: deterrents; deterrently

A deterrent makes you not want to do something. Let's say there's a giant pile of cookies being guarded by an angry dog — the dog is a deterrent.

People talk about deterrents most often when discussing crime. The death penalty is supposed to be a deterrent — the idea is that people will be so scared of the death penalty that they won't commit certain crimes. Jail is another deterrent. Teachers also use deterrents — the possibility of getting detention is a deterrent that should encourage students to behave. A deterrent is the opposite of a reward. A reward encourages you to do the right thing, while a deterrent discourages you from doing the wrong thing.

Definitions of deterrent
  1. noun
    something immaterial that interferes with or delays action or progress
    synonyms: balk, baulk, check, handicap, hinderance, hindrance, impediment
    see moresee less
    show 10 types...
    hide 10 types...
    albatross, millstone
    (figurative) something that hinders or handicaps
    something that hinders as if with bonds
    diriment impediment
    (canon law) an impediment that invalidates a marriage (such as the existence of a prior marriage)
    something that slows or delays progress
    obstacle, obstruction
    something immaterial that stands in the way and must be circumvented or surmounted
    anything immaterial that severely hinders or confines
    barrier, roadblock
    any condition that makes it difficult to make progress or to achieve an objective
    hang-up, hitch, rub, snag
    an unforeseen obstacle
    an obstacle that you are expected to overcome
    stymie, stymy
    a thwarting and distressing situation
    type of:
    a factor causing trouble in achieving a positive result or tending to produce a negative result
  2. adjective
    tending to deter
    “the deterrent effects of high prices”
    preventative, preventive
    tending to prevent or hinder




Cite this entry
  • MLA
  • APA
  • Chicago

A paragraph of text

Copy citation
DISCLAIMER: These example sentences appear in various news sources and books to reflect the usage of the word ‘deterrent'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of or its editors. Send us feedback
Word Family

Look up deterrent for the last time

Close your vocabulary gaps with personalized learning that focuses on teaching the words you need to know.

VocabTrainer -'s Vocabulary Trainer