be·​fall | \ bi-ˈfȯl How to pronounce befall (audio) , bē-\
befell\ bi-​ˈfel How to pronounce befell (audio) , bē-​ \; befallen\ bi-​ˈfȯ-​lən How to pronounce befallen (audio) , bē-​ \

Definition of befall

intransitive verb

: to happen especially as if by fate

transitive verb

: to happen to the fate that befell them

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Examples of befall in a Sentence

It's sad to think of the unhappy fate that befell him. The drought was only one of many hardships to befall the small country.

Recent Examples on the Web

Many initially believed the same fate befell Khashoggi — until Turkish officials began anonymously telling journalists the writer had been killed at the consulate. Suzan Fraser, The Seattle Times, "Turkey seeks answers from Saudi Arabia on missing journalist," 8 Oct. 2018 Meanwhile, tragedies befall Americans every day for which the federal government does not shower them with aid because CNN is not present. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "The U.S. Is Rich, So Storms Are Worse," 14 Sep. 2018 Charmeau wants to ensure the same fate does not befall Europe. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "As the SpaceX steamroller surges, European rocket industry vows to resist," 20 July 2018 The sisters have a history of mental illness in their family, and sometimes Jean wonders why this illness befell Ruby and not her? Jenny Gold, Washington Post, "Her Sister’s Keeper: Caring For A Sibling With Mental Illness," 7 Mar. 2018 The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker (January 15) Age of Miracles author Walker returns with a haunting novel about a mysterious illness that befalls a Southern California college town. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Most Anticipated Books of 2019: 19 Picks You Should Have on Your Reading List," 1 Jan. 2019 In the future, a care worker investigates a connection between the agricultural technology designed to increase food yields and the illnesses befalling farm workers. Kevin Crust,, "L.A. movie openings, June 28-29," 24 June 2018 There have also been company-specific problems that have happened to befall particularly large debt issuers, such as General Electric Co. and PG&E Corp. Sam Goldfarb, WSJ, "Debt-Market Slowdown Troubles Investors," 18 Nov. 2018 Hannah Arendt warned of the mass cynicism that can befall cultures when propaganda is allowed to proliferate among them; that cynicism is here, now. Casey Newton, The Verge, "The 8-year-olds hacking our voting machines," 4 Aug. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'befall.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of befall

13th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for befall

Middle English befallen, going back to Old English befeallan (parallel to Old High German bifallan "to fall"), from be- be- + feallan "to fall entry 1"

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Dictionary Entries near befall





be/fall prey to



Statistics for befall

Last Updated

8 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for befall

The first known use of befall was in the 13th century

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English Language Learners Definition of befall

formal, of something bad or unpleasant : to happen to (someone or something)


be·​fall | \ bi-ˈfȯl How to pronounce befall (audio) \
befell\ -​ˈfel \; befallen\ -​ˈfȯ-​lən \; befalling

Kids Definition of befall

: to happen to … they would not have known about the good fortune which befell us …— Scott O'Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins

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More from Merriam-Webster on befall

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with befall

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for befall

Spanish Central: Translation of befall

Nglish: Translation of befall for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of befall for Arabic Speakers

Comments on befall

What made you want to look up befall? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


having no equal

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