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

The subtext of spousal abuse, coupled with a tragic fate that befalls one of the store’s workers, lends the film, by Thomas Stuber, a melancholy tone bordering on the morose. The Washington Post, The Mercury News, "Review: Exploring love while working the night-shift," 21 June 2019 This was exactly the fate that befell one Florida man, who became the case example of the perils of not reading the fine print. Hadley Keller, House Beautiful, "This Guy Thought He Bought a Villa—He Bought a 12-inch Parcel Next to It," 19 June 2019 Just like elite athletes in other sports suffer career-threatening injuries that sometimes lack explanation, tragic misfortune befalls horses as well. Gentry Estes, The Courier-Journal, "As horses keep dying on the track, the industry is left to answer impossible questions," 13 June 2019 Martial can hardly be blamed for the nightmare season that befell the Red Devils, as the 23-year-old did produce some moments of sublime quality., "Transfers Window: How 7 of Last Summer's Most Talked About Players Fared During the 2018/19 Season," 10 June 2019 But that doesn't even come close to the shenanigans that befell Chrissy Teigen and John Legend last night. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "Chrissy Teigen and John Legend's Date Went Horribly, Hilariously Awry," 10 Apr. 2019 But what if calamity hadn't befallen the dinosaurs? Michael Greshko, National Geographic, "Would dinosaurs have died without an asteroid strike? Here's the science.," 6 Mar. 2019 The grassy knoll, Umbrella Man, LBJ and Ted Cruz’s dad ] And Joseph Kennedy was, without question, directly responsible for the first real tragedy to befall his children. Avi Selk, Washington Post, "Ted Kennedy spoke of a family curse after Chappaquiddick. He had good reason.," 6 Apr. 2018 Today the question of what befell the shadowy Abu Bakr appears to be beyond the powers of modern historical inquiry to resolve. Howard W. French, The New York Review of Books, "Africa’s Lost Kingdoms," 17 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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be/fall prey to



Statistics for befall

Last Updated

12 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

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

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

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

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characterized by aphorism

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