verb be·tray \ bi-ˈtrā , bē- \
Updated on: 10 Feb 2018

Definition of betray

transitive verb
1 : to lead astray; especially : seduce
  • a nation betrayed into violence
  • a teenager betrayed by a much older man
2 : to deliver to an enemy by treachery
  • was betrayed to the authorities by one of his students
  • betraying one's own country
3 : to fail or desert especially in time of need
  • betrayed his family
  • felt that she would be betraying her principles
  • You've betrayed our trust.
4 a : to reveal unintentionally
  • betray one's true feelings
b : show, indicate
  • His best columns betray … the philosophical bent of his mind.
  • —John Mason Brown
c : to disclose in violation of confidence
  • betray a secret
intransitive verb
: to prove false


play \-ˈtrā(-ə)l\ noun


play \-ˈtrā-ər\ noun

Examples of betray in a Sentence

  1. They betrayed their country by selling its secrets to other governments.

  2. She is very loyal and would never betray a friend.

  3. She betrayed her own people by supporting the enemy.

  4. She coughed, betraying her presence behind the door.

Recent Examples of betray from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'betray.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of betray

Middle English, from be- + trayen to betray, from Anglo-French trahir, from Latin tradere — more at traitor

betray Synonyms

backstab, cross, double-cross, sell (out), two-time, go back on, sell down the river, stab in the back
stand by
Related Words
give away; inform (on), peach, rat (on), shop [British], snitch (on), split (on) [British], tell (on), turn in
Near Antonyms
defend, guard, protect, safeguard, save, shield

Synonym Discussion of betray

reveal, disclose, divulge, tell, betray mean to make known what has been or should be concealed. reveal may apply to supernatural or inspired revelation of truths beyond the range of ordinary human vision or reason.
    • divine will as revealed in sacred writings
disclose may imply a discovering but more often an imparting of information previously kept secret.
    • candidates must disclose their financial assets
divulge implies a disclosure involving some impropriety or breach of confidence.
    • refused to divulge an anonymous source
tell implies an imparting of necessary or useful information.
    • told them what he had overheard
betray implies a divulging that represents a breach of faith or an involuntary or unconscious disclosure.
    • a blush that betrayed her embarrassment

BETRAY Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of betray for English Language Learners

  • : to give information about (a person, group, country, etc.) to an enemy

  • : to hurt (someone who trusts you, such as a friend or relative) by not giving help or by doing something morally wrong

  • : to show (something, such as a feeling or desire) without wanting or trying to

BETRAY Defined for Kids


verb be·tray \ bi-ˈtrā \

Definition of betray for Students

betrayed; betraying
1 : to give over to an enemy by treason or treachery
  • betray a fort
2 : to be unfaithful to
  • betray a friend
  • betrayed our trust
3 : to reveal or show without meaning to
  • betray fear
4 : to tell in violation of a trust
  • betray a secret

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