This question has baffled me for a long time, as I think they both mean "something that put somebody off doing something". Then I came across a sentence

"Numerous adversities have prevented us from going to the lakeside again this year."

I wonder whether deterrent would make sense there (instead of adversities).

OALD explain "deterrent is something that deters sb" then "The high price of the service could deter people from seeking advice." Is that mean "The high price of the service" prevent people from...? Then can I say "Numerous deterrents have prevented us from going..."?

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    Deterrent is indeed something which puts people off; adversity is "hardship", which could be a deterrent in certain circumstances. But someone wanting to become an ascetic hermit could welcome adversity.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 25, 2014 at 14:26
  • Thank you for clarification. May I ask another question (as I haven't really get the hang of it)? In the context, may the bad weather be something that puts people off? May it be a deterrent? Thanks in advance. Sep 25, 2014 at 14:33
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    Bad weather or the possibility of bad weather would be a deterrent. Actually getting wet through would be adversity! But what the writer is saying in your sentence is that they have been prevented from going, not merely deterred. Perhaps one of the adversities (hardships) is that their car broke down; or they broke a leg; something like that.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 25, 2014 at 14:37

2 Answers 2


In the context, and for difference where it makes sense:

Adversity is: things that happen [to someone or something] (generally bad things).

Deterrent is: things that happen that block some event from occurring.

Paraphrased, the statement is saying:

Numerous bad things that have happened to us have prevented us from going to the lakeside again this year.

To replace adversities with deterrents, the statement is saying:

Numerous blocks or detours (possibly relating to us, but also possibly relating to the status of the lakeside destination) have prevented us from going to the lakeside again this year.

The adversities could, indeed, be solely related to the lakeside destination (flooding, drought, fire, road blockage) but the use of prevented us versus prevented us and others, as well as the writing in the first person, is a clue to a reader that the adversities are related to the author and not the destination. On the other hand, if the author so chooses, she may indicate the adversities themselves and clarify that point.

Further adding to the mix is the possibility to say the following:

Numerous adversities have deterred us from going to the lakeside again this year.

Can deterrent and adversity be interchangeable? In this case, sure, but the use of the word adversity implies something that was not good and not neutral. A road block isn't bad but it's a deterrent. A car engine failure on the way is an adversity.


A deterrent is something you expect as a result of a choice which makes you less likely to make that choice.

Adversity is when bad things happen outside your control.

So what they are saying is that bad things happened outside their control which resulted in their being unable to go to the lakeside. Maybe their car broke down so they couldn't make the drive or one of them was sick and had to say in bed. They still want to go, but things have happened to them which prevent them from going.

A deterrent would be if they expected going to the lakeside to result in bad things happening. If bears have been numerous in the area that year, that would be an example of a deterrent. They haven't been attacked by a bear yet, but they are afraid it might happen if they go, and so they choose not to.

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