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In the usage given below, "avert" and "avoid" appear to mean the same thing:

...averted crash
...avoided crash

The words "avert" and "avoid" are different and have their respective meanings. But, going by the given usage, their meanings appear to overlap to an extent.

The research (http://goenglishforever.blogspot.in/2010/02/difference-between-avert-and-avoid.html) does not give a clear picture.

What is correct scope of their respective meanings? Where do they overlap? Where do they differ?

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From dictionary.reference.com:

avert:

  1. to turn away or aside

  2. to ward off; prevent

and

avoid:

  1. to keep away from; keep clear of; shun

  2. to prevent from happening

  3. Law. to make void or of no effect; invalidate.

Clearly definition 2 for both is "to prevent", and in this sense they completely overlap and are synonymous.

However, avoid has an additional meaning which is relevant in some cases: to keep clear of. In my experience (vaguely supported by this ngram, but not, unfortunately, conclusively) it is more common to use avoid where there is physical avoidance involved.

Hence for preventing two cars hitting each other, I would be more likely to use avoid:

I avoided a car accident

whereas for preventing Armageddon I would be more likely to use avert:

I averted the disaster

But, as said previously, they are synonyms and hence either avoid or avert would be valid in either of my examples.

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  • I've heard "averted a car accident", and "avoided a car accident" as well.
    – NVZ
    Aug 17, 2016 at 16:31
  • @NVZ - Agreed, but I believe "avoided" is more common for a car accident, as backed up by the ngram. I've made a minor revision to state that either is acceptable, I just have a personal preference.
    – AndyT
    Aug 17, 2016 at 16:36

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