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Forbid vs. Forfend — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Urooj Arif — Updated on April 27, 2024
Forbid implies officially or authoritatively prohibiting something, while forfend, a more archaic term, means to prevent or protect against something.
Forbid vs. Forfend — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Forbid and Forfend


Key Differences

Forbid is commonly used to express a prohibition imposed by authority or law, indicating that a specific action must not be taken. Forfend, on the other hand, is rarely used in modern English and carries a sense of warding off or averting something undesirable.
When one says they forbid something, it often carries an implication of power or control, such as parents setting rules for children or laws that dictate behavior. Forfend, whereas, tends to imply a wish or prayer to protect someone from harm or an undesirable outcome.
In legal or formal contexts, forbid is frequently employed to establish clear boundaries or rules. Forfend does not typically appear in these contexts, leaning more towards literary or historical usage, emphasizing an archaic tone.
Usage of forbid spans various contexts, from informal to formal, and is understood universally. Forfend, on the other hand, might require clarification due to its rarity and archaic resonance in modern language.
The tone of forbid can be stern and direct, reflecting the seriousness of the prohibition. Forfend often carries a lighter, sometimes almost superstitious tone, suggesting an earnest desire to avert evil or difficulty rather than enforce a rule.

Comparison Chart


To prohibit by authority
To avert or prevent

Usage Frequency

Rare, archaic


Legal, personal, formal
Literary, historical


Authoritative, direct
Protective, superstitious

Modern Relevance

Universally understood
Seldom used, often unclear

Compare with Definitions


To rule out; exclude.
His character forbids any suspicion of dishonesty.


To protect or guard.
The charm was worn to forfend against evil.


To prohibit an action or activity.
The law forbids texting while driving.


To ward off.
She held up a cross to forfend the vampire.


To deny permission.
The museum forbids flash photography.


To avert or avoid.
They took steps to forfend any criticism.


To order someone not to do something.
The sign forbids entry to the construction site.


To prohibit, in a protective sense.
Measures were taken to forfend theft.


To make impossible; prevent.
The lack of funds forbids further investment.


To keep away or prevent.
He prayed to forfend disaster.


To command (someone) not to do something
I forbid you to go.


To keep or ward off; avert.


To command against the doing or use of (something); prohibit
Forbid smoking on trains.


(Archaic)To forbid.


To have the effect of preventing; preclude
Discretion forbids a reply.


(archaic) To prohibit; to forbid; to avert.


(transitive) To disallow; to proscribe.
Smoking in the restaurant is forbidden.


To prohibit; to forbid; to avert.
Which peril heaven forefend!


(ditransitive) To deny, exclude from, or warn off, by express command.


(transitive) To oppose, hinder, or prevent, as if by an effectual command.
An impassable river forbids the approach of the army.


To accurse; to blast.


To defy; to challenge.
What part of "no" do you forbid to understand?


To command against, or contrary to; to prohibit; to interdict.
More than I have said . . . The leisure and enforcement of the timeForbids to dwell upon.


To deny, exclude from, or warn off, by express command; to command not to enter.
Have I not forbid her my house?


To oppose, hinder, or prevent, as if by an effectual command; as, an impassable river forbids the approach of the army.
A blaze of glory that forbids the sight.


To accurse; to blast.
He shall live a man forbid.


To defy; to challenge.


To utter a prohibition; to prevent; to hinder.


Command against;
I forbid you to call me late at night
Mother vetoed the trip to the chocolate store


Keep from happening or arising; have the effect of preventing;
My sense of tact forbids an honest answer

Common Curiosities

In what contexts might one encounter the word "forfend"?

One might encounter "forfend" in literary or historical texts, or when an author wants to evoke an archaic or formal tone.

What is the origin of the word "forfend"?

The word "forfend" originates from the Middle English "forfenden," derived from "for-" (against) and "fenden" (to defend).

Can "forbid" have any connotations beyond prohibition?

Yes, "forbid" can also suggest a strong disapproval or a command that prevents certain behavior.

How does "forbid" function in legal language?

In legal language, "forbid" is used to formally prohibit certain actions through laws, regulations, or directives.

Can "forbid" imply physical prevention?

Yes, "forbid" can imply physical prevention, as when barriers or physical measures are used to enforce a prohibition.

How might a writer use "forfend" effectively today?

A writer might use "forfend" to give a character's language a dated or formal flavor, or in poetic contexts to invoke a sense of guarding or protection.

What synonyms could replace "forfend"?

Since "forfend" is less common, suitable synonyms might include avert, prevent, or protect, depending on the context.

What is the origin of the word "forbid"?

The word "forbid" comes from Old English "forbēodan," meaning to command against or prohibit.

What emotional response might "forbid" evoke?

The word "forbid" often evokes a sense of restriction or authority, which can be reassuring or oppressive, depending on the context.

What synonyms could replace "forbid"?

Synonyms for "forbid" include prohibit, ban, disallow, and block.

Is "forfend" used in modern legal documents?

No, "forfend" is rarely, if ever, used in modern legal documents due to its archaic nature.

Could "forfend" be seen as more passive than "forbid"?

Yes, "forfend" can be seen as more passive, focusing on prevention and protection rather than direct prohibition, which is a more active and forceful action represented by "forbid."

Does "forfend" carry emotional implications?

Yes, "forfend" can carry emotional implications of care or concern, as it often relates to preventing harm or misfortune.

How does the frequency of use affect the understanding of these words?

Because "forbid" is widely used and understood, its meanings and implications are clear to most speakers. "Forfend," being rarely used, may not be immediately understood and often requires context or explanation.

How do "forbid" and "forfend" reflect cultural differences in their usage?

The use of "forbid" reflects a more direct, authoritative approach typical in Western cultures, while "forfend," with its protective and somewhat superstitious connotations, might reflect older or more traditional societal norms.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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