[ pruh-vahyd ]
/ prəˈvaɪd /

verb (used with object), pro·vid·ed, pro·vid·ing.

verb (used without object), pro·vid·ed, pro·vid·ing.



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Origin of provide

1375–1425; late Middle English providen<Latin prōvidēre to foresee, look after, provide for, equivalent to prō-pro-1 + vidēre to see


pro·vid·a·ble, adjectiveo·ver·pro·vide, verb (used with object), o·ver·pro·vid·ed, o·ver·pro·vid·ing.pre·pro·vide, verb (used with object), pre·pro·vid·ed, pre·pro·vid·ing.un·pro·vid·a·ble, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020


Where does provide come from?

For many, the word provide might conjure up tangible objects you can hand over, like food, supplies, goods, or money. Provide may also bring to mind less concrete things that can nevertheless be given or furnished, such as answers or solutions or responses. So, it might surprise you to learn that the root of provide isn’t about the sense of touch—but vision.

Provide entered English around 1375–1425. It comes from the Latin prōvidēre, meaning “to foresee, look after, provide for.” The underlying idea of this verb is seeing something at a distance or beforehand, and when you can see something coming, you can make arrangements and prepare supplies for it. We call such arrangements and supplies provisions, a word that is also derived from prōvidēre.

The Latin prōvidēre is composed of two parts. The first part is prō-, a widely used prefix based on the preposition prō, meaning “before, in front of.” The second part is vidēre, meaning “to see, look at.”

Prō- appears in many words English borrowed from Latin, such as these verbs:

The verb vidēre is the ultimate source of a lot of English words, many of which entered English through French. Some more familiar derivatives include view, video, vision, visual, visit, and vista. Other derivatives are less obvious and even surprising:

Did you know ... ?

The word provide, etymologically speaking, is all about seeing—and as a result, planning for—things ahead of time. Another word for this quality is foresight. And a synonym for foresight is yet another word that comes from the Latin prōvidēre: providence.

When you are careful about providing for the future, you are prudent. Want to provide a guess as to the root of the word prudent? Yes, it also ultimately derives from prōvidēre.

Discover more about providence and prudent at our entries for those words.

Example sentences from the Web for provide

British Dictionary definitions for provide

/ (prəˈvaɪd) /

verb (mainly tr)

Derived forms of provide

provider, noun

Word Origin for provide

C15: from Latin prōvidēre to provide for, from prō- beforehand + vidēre to see
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