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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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 Officials said they are expected to cater to the president's wishes and seek to avoid the internal knife fights that have befallen many a Trump aide. Philip Rucker And Robert Costa,, "'Tired of the wait game': White House stabilizers gone, Trump calling his own shots," 1 Apr. 2018 Such a fate befell Nigerian Oghenerkaro Etebo, who had a ball deflect off his leg and into the goal to give Croatia a 1-0 lead. Jared Young,, "Own goals are having a big impact in the 2018 World Cup," 21 June 2018 On Monday night, that sad fate befell the Rockets, who disintegrated in the crucible of the postseason. Scott Cacciola, New York Times, "Over, Easy: A Basketball Aficionado Foresees the Warriors’ Surge Past the Rockets," 29 May 2018 Two hours before he was ambushed outside a motorcycle dealership in Deerfield Beach and shot dead Monday, South Florida rapper XXXTentacion was unaware of the fate that would soon befall him. Martin Vassolo, Rebecca Ellis And Carli Teproff, miamiherald, "XXXTentacion's great-grandmother mourns him as 'Hercules.' He had no enemies, lawyer says.," 19 June 2018 Not long after Ellen’s funeral, which is presented as a chance for Annie to break free of her mother’s murky influence, another tragedy befalls the Grahams, and things shift from moody to macabre. David Sims, The Atlantic, "The Close-to-Home Horror of Hereditary," 7 June 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.

See More

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"

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about befall

Dictionary Entries near befall





be/fall prey to



Statistics for befall

Last Updated

29 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for befall

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for befall



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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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).


a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!