be·​reft bi-ˈreft How to pronounce bereft (audio)
: deprived or robbed of the possession or use of something
usually used with of
both players are instantly bereft of their poiseA. E. Wier
: lacking something needed, wanted, or expected
used with of
the book is … completely bereft of an indexThe Times Literary Supplement (London)
: suffering the death of a loved one : bereaved
a bereft mother

Did you know?

In Old English, the verb berēafian meant "to plunder or rob." The modern equivalent (and descendant) of berēafian is bereave, a verb that implies that you have robbed or stripped someone of something, often suddenly and unexpectedly, and sometimes by force. Bereft comes from the past participle of bereave; Shakespeare uses the participle in The Merchant of Venice, when Bassanio tells Portia, "Madam, you have bereft me of all words." But by Shakespeare's day bereft was also being used as an adjective. The Bard uses it in The Taming of the Shrew, as a newly obedient and docile Katharina declares, "A woman mov'd is like a fountain troubled—muddy, … thick, bereft of beauty."

Examples of bereft in a Sentence

She finds the child's mother, alone, who has apparently gone into the woods just to cry. The bereft mother is played by Julianne Moore. Stanley Kauffmann, New Republic, 31 Jan. 2000
… made the tabloids when his wife ran off to France with her dentist and the bereft realtor placed a newspaper ad for a girl to adopt to keep him company. Neal Gabler, Life: The Movie, 1998
It's not that the country was completely bereft of humor. Joseph Contrevas, Newsweek, 6 June 1994
to one investigator, the bereft woman seemed to be taking the sudden death of her rich husband amazingly well a cheap motel completely bereft of all amenities
Recent Examples on the Web This is one of those endings that leaves you feeling a little bereft. Stephanie Zacharek, TIME, 22 May 2024 Alone for the first time in years, often decades for long-term married couples, widows and widowers often feel bereft. Patricia Steckler, Baltimore Sun, 15 May 2024 As if to complete the effect, the music often cuts off abruptly mid-scene, a technique that leaves you feeling bereft and unmoored. Justin Chang, The New Yorker, 3 May 2024 In a late scene, Daisy storms out of his thirtieth-birthday party, leaving his father swatting away imaginary owls and his neglectful, mad mother bereft. Michael Schulman, The New Yorker, 15 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for bereft 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bereft.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see bereave

First Known Use

1554, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of bereft was in 1554


Dictionary Entries Near bereft

Cite this Entry

“Bereft.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


be·​reft bi-ˈreft How to pronounce bereft (audio)
: not having something needed, wanted, or expected
bereft of money

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