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Avert vs. Divert: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on December 11, 2023
Avert means to turn away or prevent; Divert means to change direction or focus.

Key Differences

Avert often implies an action taken to prevent an undesirable outcome. For instance, averting one's gaze to avoid seeing something unpleasant. Divert, on the other hand, involves redirecting something towards a different course or purpose, such as diverting traffic to a detour.
Avert is generally used in the context of preventing something negative, like averting a crisis, while divert is neutral and can refer to any change in direction, such as diverting funds to a new project.
Avert can signify a proactive measure to avoid harm or inconvenience, like averting potential problems through careful planning. Divert can imply a more passive shift, such as a river being diverted by a natural obstacle.
In the emotional context, avert can mean avoiding a direct interaction or confrontation, as in averting one’s eyes from someone’s gaze. Divert, in contrast, might refer to shifting someone’s attention or emotions to something else, like diverting one's mind from stress.
Avert is about prevention and avoidance, primarily used in negative or neutral contexts. Divert, conversely, suggests a redirection, often neutral or positive, and is more about altering course than preventing outcomes.

Comparison Chart

Primary Meaning

To prevent or avoid
To change direction or focus

Usage Context

Often negative or protective
Neutral, can be positive or negative

Associated Actions

Proactive measures, avoidance
Redirection, change of focus

Emotional Context

Avoiding direct interaction or confrontation
Shifting attention or emotions

Outcome Orientation

Preventative, avoiding undesirable outcomes
Altering course, neutral or purposeful change

Avert and Divert Definitions


To deflect or redirect.
She averted her thoughts from the sad news.


To turn aside or from a path.
The path was diverted due to construction.


To avoid or evade.
He averted uncomfortable questions with skill.


To redirect attention or resources.
The company diverted funds to new projects.


To turn away.
She averted her eyes from the gruesome scene.


To entertain or amuse.
The clown diverted the children at the party.


To prevent or ward off.
Quick action averted the accident.


To shift focus from one area to another.
He diverted the conversation to a lighter topic.


To steer clear of a potential problem.
They averted disaster through careful planning.


To cause a change in direction.
The river's course was diverted by the dam.


To turn away
Avert one's eyes.


To turn aside from a course or direction
Traffic was diverted around the scene of the accident.


To distract
My attention was diverted by an argument between motorists.


Is "avert" proactive or reactive?

Avert is more proactive, involving steps taken to prevent something.

Can "divert" be used in strategic contexts?

Yes, it can mean strategically redirecting focus or resources.

What does "avert" primarily imply?

Avert implies prevention or avoidance of something negative.

Does "avert" always imply physical turning away?

Not always; it can also be metaphorical, like averting a crisis.

Can "divert" be used in a conversational sense?

Yes, like diverting the topic of a conversation.

Can "divert" be used in a positive context?

Yes, divert can be neutral or positive, like diverting resources to beneficial projects.

Can "divert" mean to entertain?

Yes, divert can mean to entertain or amuse, as in diverting someone’s attention.

Is "avert" always about avoiding danger?

Mostly, it's about avoiding negative outcomes, but it can also mean turning away in general.

Is "avert" a common term in safety contexts?

Yes, it's often used in contexts like averting accidents or risks.

Can "divert" imply distraction?

Yes, it can mean diverting attention as a form of distraction.

Can "divert" relate to physical redirection?

Yes, it often involves changing direction, like a diverted path or river.

Does "divert" imply a permanent change?

Not necessarily; the change can be temporary or situational.

Is "divert" applicable in logistics or planning?

Yes, particularly in redirecting resources or routes.

Does "avert" suggest a deliberate action?

Generally, yes; it implies an intentional effort to avoid something.

Are "avert" and "divert" interchangeable?

Not usually, due to their different implications of prevention vs. redirection.

Is "avert" used more in negative contexts?

Yes, it often relates to avoiding negative or undesirable outcomes.

Can "avert" be related to crisis management?

Absolutely, as in averting potential disasters through planning.

Is "avert" used in emotional contexts?

Yes, like averting one's gaze to avoid emotional discomfort.

Does "divert" always mean a significant change?

No, it can refer to minor or subtle shifts in direction or focus.

Can "divert" have a playful connotation?

Yes, especially in contexts of diverting for entertainment or amusement.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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