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

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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 The flood is one of the latest tragedies to befall the city of Nashville, which in the last year has experienced a damaging tornado, a deadly derecho and a Christmas morning bombing. Hollie Silverman, CNN, "Nashville flash flood leaves four dead and dozens of homes and businesses destroyed," 29 Mar. 2021 Of course, the pandemic wasn’t the only cataclysm to befall the region’s winemakers during the last year. Los Angeles Times, "Wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma will never be the same. Here’s why that’s a good thing," 2 Apr. 2021 Žbanić doesn’t waste time on preamble; the war has been raging for three years, and Aida is our lone guide to the horrors that have befallen and will befall her hometown. Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Quo Vadis, Aida?,’ Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Oscar entry, grippingly recounts a 1995 tragedy," 9 Mar. 2021 Lam’s was just one of many eye-raising deaths to befall the Cecil Hotel since its opening in 1927. Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, Forbes, "What Netflix Fans Need To Know About The Cecil Hotel’s Rumored Reopening," 28 Feb. 2021 One risk that can – and occasionally does — befall any building is the possibility of a fire or other damage. Joshua Stein, Forbes, "What If A Property Under Contract Burns Down?," 27 Feb. 2021 Even younger teens will recognize the sadness that will likely befall them in their lives. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "Five Burning Questions: Olivia Rodrigo's 'Drivers License' Makes Historic Debut Atop Hot 100," 20 Jan. 2021 Offscreen but casting a long shadow are the Twin Towers, which were of course not yet murthered in the tragedy—if not a Shakespearean tragedy, maybe a Greek one—that would befall them the next year. Virginia Heffernan, Wired, "Hamlet 2000 Has Never Made More Sense," 29 Dec. 2020 The coronavirus pandemic is the most universal trauma to befall the nation since World War II, its ravages compounded by a political nightmare that culminated, last week, in an actual assault on democratic rule. New York Times, "The Arts Are in Crisis. Here’s How Biden Can Help.," 13 Jan. 2021

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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Time Traveler for befall

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for befall

Last Updated

25 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Befall.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for befall



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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