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

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 Donald Trump’s former lawyer Sidney Powell thinks that one of the greatest injustices to befall her for trying to overthrow the 2020 election is losing her TSA status, court documents revealed. Tori Otten, The New Republic, 20 Sep. 2023 But the storm is only the latest misery to befall the town. Nadeen Ebrahim, CNN, 13 Sep. 2023 It was also derided as unfair: Even a felony as minor as stealing a slice of pizza could result in a 25-year sentence, a situation that befell one man, Jerry Dewayne Williams. Clay Risen, New York Times, 24 July 2023 However, The Nun 2 suffers from a dilemma befalling many a midquel: It’s boxed in by canon. Vulture, 8 Sep. 2023 The Mission gang unit has largely avoided the type of scandals that have befallen other gang units, despite being among the most active in terms of traffic stops. Libor Jany, Los Angeles Times, 24 Aug. 2023 If estimable Stanford, which won the Pac-12 as recently as 2015 and went to 10 straight bowl games between 2009 and 2018, can be tossed aside like a candy wrapper, then the same fate could befall BC if the Atlantic Coast Conference fractured. Globe Staff,, 9 Aug. 2023 What sanctions will befall those who color outside the lines of their grants? Jan Hoffman, New York Times, 14 Aug. 2023 In both versions, the captain’s log of the Demeter ship tells of the mysterious fates that befell its crew during a voyage from Romania to England, and how the ship turned up with only its dead captain on board. Odie Henderson,, 10 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'befall.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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"

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

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

Dictionary Entries Near befall

Cite this Entry

“Befall.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


be·​fall bi-ˈfȯl How to pronounce befall (audio)
befell -ˈfel How to pronounce befall (audio) ; befallen -ˈfȯ-lən How to pronounce befall (audio) ; befalling
: to take place : happen
: to happen to

More from Merriam-Webster on befall

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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