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 As communities in Gilroy, Dayton and El Paso struggle to heal from the mass shootings that tore through the fabric of daily life, first responders in Phoenix are training to be prepared should the next massacre befall the Valley of the Sun. Perry Vandell, azcentral, "'Knowledge is preparedness': Phoenix police hold active shooter drill at Herberger Theater," 27 Aug. 2019 So the environmental costs of air travel are huge and growing, and the worst impacts will befall future generations. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Air travel is a huge contributor to climate change. A new global movement wants you to be ashamed to fly.," 1 Aug. 2019 The Greek god Cronus castrated his own father and, fearing a similar fate would befall him, gobbled up five of his own children before vomiting them back out. The Economist, "Family trouble," 4 July 2019 The central government could take steps to sap Imamoglu’s administrative powers, or even invent a reason to charge him personally with a criminal offense of some kind, a fate that has befallen many of the president’s foes. Laura King,, "How will Turkey’s authoritarian president react to opposition’s big win in Istanbul mayoral race?," 24 June 2019 Despite the tragedy that befell her during the early part of her life, Westheimer maintains a sense of optimism. Steve Sadin,, "Dr. Ruth makes appearance at Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie: ‘Hitler lost the war and he’s dead. I have four grandchildren.’," 20 Aug. 2019 Skaggs' death is not the first time tragedy has befallen the Angels organization. Samuel Chamberlain, Fox News, "Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs dead at 27, team announces," 2 July 2019 The accident is the latest tragedy to befall the girl’s family following the rape allegations, which have generated widespread outrage over lax treatment of rape complaints by authorities. Niha Masih, Washington Post, "Indian politician faces possible murder charge after teenager who accused him of rape is critically injured in car crash," 31 July 2019 What a delightfully awful thing to befall a small Russian hamlet, which Sarah A. Topol beautifully recounts like a modern folktale. The Editors, Outside Online, "The Weirdest Stories We've Ever Told," 4 June 2019

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

18 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for befall

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

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How to pronounce befall (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for befall

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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).


to spread as a report or rumor

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