the act of .
the legal of the manufacture and sale of alcoholic drinks for common consumption.
(often initial capital letter) the period (1920–33) when the Eighteenth Amendment was in force and alcoholic beverages could not legally be manufactured, transported, or sold in the U.S.
a law or decree that forbids.
Contemporary Examples

There was definitely a prohibition against alcohol and drugs.
‘Dazed and Confused’ Director Richard Linklater on Its 20th Anniversary Marlow Stern September 23, 2013

Rye whiskey has had a tough go of it, and prohibition and two World Wars certainly didn’t help.
Why Rye Is The Nation’s Spirit, And Why No One Can Get It Kayleigh Kulp July 11, 2014

The case against legalization begins with a defense of its opposite: the benefits of prohibition.
Why Legalizing Marijuana on Election Day Might Not Be a Good Idea Tony Doukopil October 28, 2012

And, because of prohibition, unlike food products, the cannabis BHO process is unregulated.
Hey Buddy, Wanna Dab? Inside The Mainstream Explosion of Cannabis Concentrates Valerie Vande Panne December 20, 2013

prohibition prevents an even more tremendous uptick, according to “Marijuana Legalization.”
Why Legalizing Marijuana on Election Day Might Not Be a Good Idea Tony Doukopil October 28, 2012

Historical Examples

Swiney in his Preface gives the above as the reason for the prohibition.
An Apology for the Life of Mr. Colley Cibber, Volume I (of 2) Colley Cibber

Only, if war is the exception, why should prohibition be the rule?
What I Saw in America G. K. Chesterton

I am not referring solely or even specially to prohibition, which I discuss elsewhere.
What I Saw in America G. K. Chesterton

His balked feelings overmastered him, and he disregarded her prohibition.
Mountain Blood Joseph Hergesheimer

A motion of prohibition that had in it none of the grace of entreaty, checked his formula.
Jessamine Marion Harland

the act of prohibiting or state of being prohibited
an order or decree that prohibits
(sometimes capital) (esp in the US) a policy of legally forbidding the manufacture, transportation, sale, or consumption of alcoholic beverages except for medicinal or scientific purposes
(law) an order of a superior court (in Britain the High Court) forbidding an inferior court to determine a matter outside its jurisdiction
the period (1920–33) when the manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors was banned by constitutional amendment in the US

late 14c., “act of prohibiting, a forbidding by authority,” from Anglo-French and Old French prohibition (early 13c.), from Latin prohibitionem (nominative prohibitio) “a hindering, forbidding; legal prohibition,” noun of action from past participle stem of prohibere “hold back, restrain, hinder, prevent,” from pro- “away, forth” (see pro-) + habere “to hold” (see habit). Meaning “forced alcohol abstinence” is 1851, American English; in effect nationwide in U.S. as law 1920-1933 under the Volstead Act.

People whose youth did not coincide with the twenties never had our reverence for strong drink. Older men knew liquor before it became the symbol of a sacred cause. Kids who began drinking after 1933 take it as a matter of course. … Drinking, we proved to ourselves our freedom as individuals and flouted Congress. We conformed to a popular type of dissent — dissent from a minority. It was the only period during which a fellow could be smug and slopped concurrently. [A.J. Liebling, “Between Meals,” 1959]

Related: Prohibitionist.

Prohibition [(proh-uh-bish-uhn)]

The outlawing of alcoholic beverages nationwide from 1920 to 1933, under an amendment to the Constitution. The amendment, enforced by the Volstead Act, was repealed by another amendment to the Constitution in 1933.

Note: Prohibition is often mentioned in discussions of how much social change can be brought about through law, because alcohol was widely, though illegally, produced and sold during Prohibition; it was served privately in the White House under President Warren Harding, for example.

Note: Many use the example of Prohibition to argue that more harm than good comes from the enactment of laws that are sure to be widely disobeyed.

Note: Some states and localities (called “dry”) had outlawed the production and sale of alcohol before the Prohibition amendment was adopted. The repealing amendment allowed individual states and localities to remain “dry,” and some did for many years.


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Disclaimer: Prohibition definition / meaning should not be considered complete, up to date, and is not intended to be used in place of a visit, consultation, or advice of a legal, medical, or any other professional. All content on this website is for informational purposes only.