be·​fall | \ bi-ˈfȯl, bē-\
befell\ bi-​ˈfel , bē-​ \; befallen\ bi-​ˈfȯ-​lən , 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.

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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 That is the fate that has befallen Mexico, which stands alone at this particular point of the tournament as being the country most tortured by the World Cup’s second round. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "Why the World Cup hurts so much for Mexico," 1 July 2018 That’s the issue that has befallen British private equity chief Guy Hands who faces another setback at his fund’s struggling U.K. care home provider. Jonathan Browning,, "Mistake by Terra Firma Gives H/2 Hedge Fund Possible Windfall," 14 May 2018 For more than a decade, Zuckerberg had dodged the congressional spotlight, slipping away from the sort of high-drama, made-for-television Washington interrogations that had befallen some of his tech industry peers. Tony Romm,, "Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg faces long-awaited 'reckoning' in Congress," 6 Apr. 2018 In fact, only one reigning champion this century hasn't befallen that embarrassing fate, and that was Brazil in 2006., "World Cup Curse: Germany are Just the Latest Reigning Champions Eliminated in Group Stage," 28 June 2018 The patriarchal political apocalypse has all but befallen us already and now is the time that Swift has decided to break her political silence. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "Hello Taylor Swift, and Welcome to the Resistance," 8 Oct. 2018 But the changes that have befallen the Parrs are more than merely lifestyle-related. Justin Chang,, "How the dazzling, overstuffed ‘Incredibles 2’ holds up a cracked mirror to present-day reality," 4 July 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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be/fall prey to



Statistics for befall

Last Updated

11 Jan 2019

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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

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


be·​fall | \ bi-ˈfȯl \
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

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marked by shyness and lack of polish

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