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

Definition of befall

intransitive verb

: to happen especially as if by fate

transitive verb

: to happen to the fate that befell them

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 At least one individual’s implant has already failed with no way to repair it — a situation that could befall many others. New York Times, 12 May 2022 Many Taiwanese are looking at Ukraine’s current reality as something that could befall their homeland. Chris Horton, The Atlantic, 6 May 2022 In the film, Shrimpton is the latest in a long line of Spinal Tap drummers who had all met with grisly or bizarre deaths and accidents, a fate which would befall Shrimpton who spontaneously combusts onstage while performing in Japan. Abid Rahman, The Hollywood Reporter, 3 May 2022 Four years ago, a group of employees at the Oregon State Treasury sat down and compiled a list of every conceivable disaster that could befall a government building. New York Times, 8 Apr. 2022 Some experts fear this is a dark omen of a fate that could befall Kyiv. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 21 Mar. 2022 As the episode’s championship game approaches, Burns tempts the wrath of the softball gods by declaring there’s no way misfortune could simultaneously befall all his ringers. Washington Post, 14 Feb. 2022 Narrative tension is virtually nonexistent in a story animated by stakes that couldn’t be lower, or more formulaic; the plot hums along smoothly, much like Véra ’s battered VW that runs right on cue, no matter what misadventures befall it. Washington Post, 13 Apr. 2022 Fans were afraid the same fate might befall their Orioles, especially since the franchise was owned by Washington, D.C., attorney Edward Bennett Williams, who had few ties to Baltimore. Joe Mock, USA TODAY, 6 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for befall

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

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Dictionary Entries Near befall



be/fall prey to

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Last Updated

19 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Befall.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for befall


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

More from Merriam-Webster on befall

Nglish: Translation of befall for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of befall for Arabic Speakers


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