[ in-hib-it ]
/ ɪnˈhɪb ɪt /
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See synonyms for: inhibit / inhibited / inhibiting / inhibits on Thesaurus.com

Definition of inhibit

verb (used with object)
to restrain, hinder, arrest, or check (an action, impulse, etc.).
to prohibit; forbid.
Psychology. to consciously or unconsciously suppress or restrain (psychologically or sociologically unacceptable behavior).
Chemistry. to decrease the rate of action of or stop (a chemical reaction).
Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
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Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

Origin of inhibit

First recorded in 1425–75; late Middle English inhibiten, from Latin inhibitus, past participle of inhibēre “to restrain,” equivalent to in- in-2 + -hibēre, combining form of habēre “to have, hold”

synonym study for inhibit

2. See forbid.


in·hib·it·a·ble, adjectivein·hib·i·to·ry [in-hib-i-tawr-ee], /ɪnˈhɪb ɪˌtɔr i/, in·hib·i·tive, adjectiveo·ver·in·hib·it, verb (used with object)un·in·hib·it·ing, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What’s the difference between inhibit and prohibit?

Prohibit most commonly means to forbid or disallow, but it can also mean what inhibit usually means—to prevent or hinder. Inhibit can also mean to forbid, but this use is much less common.

Prohibit is most commonly used in the context of rules, especially official ones like laws. The speed limit prohibits you from going above a certain speed. Parents might prohibit their kids from eating candy before dinner, but the word forbid is more commonly used in cases like this.

Inhibit, on the other hand, is usually used in the context of things that prevent or hinder what someone is trying to do. Speed bumps are designed to inhibit speeding. A leg injury can inhibit your ability to walk.

The meaning of prohibit and inhibit most often overlaps in cases when something is inhibited to the point of almost not being able to happen at all, as in This cast is designed to prohibit movement (prohibit could be replaced with inhibit in this sentence without much or any change in meaning).

The adjective form inhibited is often used to indicate that someone or something is held back from full potential. When it’s applied to a person, it usually involves a mental, emotional, or psychological block, as in I feel less inhibited around my new group of friends—they accept me for who I am.

The adjective prohibited describes something that’s forbidden, as in The sign lists all of the prohibited activities. 

Here’s an example of inhibit and prohibit used correctly in the same sentence.

Example: To inhibit the acceleration of climate change, we must prohibit any increase in fossil fuel emissions.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between inhibit and prohibit.

Quiz yourself on inhibit vs. prohibit!

Should inhibit or prohibit be used in the following sentence?

The school board adopted a new rule to _____ smoking anywhere on school grounds.

How to use inhibit in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for inhibit

/ (ɪnˈhɪbɪt) /

verb -its, -iting or -ited (tr)
to restrain or hinder (an impulse, a desire, etc)
to prohibit; forbid
to stop, prevent, or decrease the rate of (a chemical reaction)
  1. to prevent the occurrence of (a particular signal) in a circuit
  2. to prevent the performance of (a particular operation)

Derived forms of inhibit

inhibitable, adjectiveinhibitive or inhibitory, adjective

Word Origin for inhibit

C15: from Latin inhibēre to restrain, from in- ² + habēre to have
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Medical definitions for inhibit

[ ĭn-hĭbĭt ]

To hold back; restrain.
To suppress or restrain a behavioral process, an impulse, or a desire consciously or unconsciously.
To prevent or decrease the rate of a chemical reaction.
To decrease, limit, or block the action or function of something in the body, as an enzyme or organ.

Other words from inhibit

in•hibi•to′ry (-tôr′ē) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.