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 The ensemble also betrays the woman’s emotions, and anticipates the increasingly sharp turns of her mental state, including with a tense, thumping rhythm like a heartbeat. Joshua Barone, New York Times, 4 Apr. 2024 On the other hand, the passion, loyalty, and collective sense of ownership that is welcomed to propel brands mainstream, is equally valid when consumers feel betrayed. Ebony Flake, Essence, 29 Mar. 2024 How does Ohtani feel about allegedly being betrayed? Steve Henson, Los Angeles Times, 26 Mar. 2024 More importantly, Musk’s argument betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how the immigration system functions. Gaby Del Valle, The Verge, 25 Mar. 2024 To say that a new play betrays a sitcom sensibility probably sounds a little pejorative, under most circumstances. Chris Willman, Variety, 24 Mar. 2024 Only one part of Fanning’s outfit betrayed any interest in labels: her Prada shopping bag. Hannah Jackson, Vogue, 19 Mar. 2024 Strada said she was disappointed in the commissioner and felt betrayed. Ashan Singh, ABC News, 15 Mar. 2024 And in thinking through the grimy ethics of what these kinds of journalists sometimes have to do (extract confidences and then betray them, essentially committing private harms for the sake of an abstract Public Good). Lili Loofbourow, Washington Post, 14 Mar. 2024

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 18 Apr. 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

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