The definition of avoid means to “stay away from something”. Usually one avoids something so as to not encounter pain or some kind of negative effect. All organisms do some kind of avoiding, for example avoiding being killed, attacked, or eaten in order to survive.
To avoid is an action verb, where the subject moves away from something. For an organism, moving away from something is a concrete action like avoiding predators, avoiding predators’ areas, avoiding being detected by predators in the first place. To avoid is a core concept of homeostasis and so all living organisms and intelligent beings understand this concept at a visceral level.
Humans extend the concept of avoiding to a deeper level. Humans can avoid all kinds of things:
- objects – I avoid refined sugars.
- abstract situations – I avoid dating older women. I always leave early to avoid being late.
Humans can avoid things in both the short term and long term. The US government has a policy of not calling Native Americans by the term Indian in government docs to avoid potential conflicts.