be·​tray bi-ˈtrā How to pronounce betray (audio)
betrayed; betraying; betrays

transitive verb

: to lead astray
especially : seduce
a nation betrayed into violence
a teenager betrayed by a much older man
: to deliver to an enemy by treachery
was betrayed to the authorities by one of his students
betraying one's own country
: 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.
: to reveal unintentionally
betray one's true feelings
: show, indicate
His best columns betray … the philosophical bent of his mind.John Mason Brown
: to disclose in violation of confidence
betray a secret

intransitive verb

: to prove false
betrayer noun
Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of betray in a Sentence

They betrayed their country by selling its secrets to other governments. She is very loyal and would never betray a friend. She betrayed her own people by supporting the enemy. She coughed, betraying her presence behind the door.
Recent Examples on the Web Contrary to popular belief, two people can come together, fall in love, and decide to part ways without betraying or disrespecting each other. Roya Backlund, StyleCaster, 12 July 2024 But the public officials who voted to run a road through conservation land didn’t just betray wildlife. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel, 11 July 2024 Was my innate sense of style actually betraying me? Laura Neilson, Vogue, 10 July 2024 Infrared imaging, deep sensing, satellite photography, open-source intelligence and more all betray troop positions. Colin Demarest, Axios, 10 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for betray 

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of betray was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near betray

Cite this Entry

“Betray.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


be·​tray bi-ˈtrā How to pronounce betray (audio)
: to give over to an enemy by treachery
: to be unfaithful to
betrayed our trust
: to reveal without meaning to
betrayed their ignorance
: to tell in violation of a trust
betray a secret
betrayal noun
betrayer noun

More from Merriam-Webster on betray

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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