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

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.
4a : 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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from betray

betrayer \ bi-​ˈtrā-​ər How to pronounce betrayer (audio) , bē-​ \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for betray


backstab, cross, double-cross, sell (out), two-time


stand by

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

His reasoning betrays a sense that, at the end of the day, star power more so than parity is what makes sports interesting to follow. Kevin Craft, The Atlantic, "The Thrilling Unpredictability of Women’s Tennis," 3 Sep. 2019 That betrays a misunderstanding of the role of the Supreme Court, whose justices are not supposed to act according to their personal beliefs and politics, but to their fair reading of the law. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, "Total bans on abortion ignore the opinions of most Americans," 13 Aug. 2019 The Citizens United decision is a natural extension of the rights of individuals to speak freely; anything less would have betrayed the very concept of the First Amendment. Joe Lonsdale, National Review, "Regulating Speech Won’t Fix Our Politics," 12 Aug. 2019 One day, that orphaned baby will grow up and see how he was betrayed. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, "Equinox Owner Under Fire for Trump Funder: raceAhead," 9 Aug. 2019 Further, even if the language of Article 46 could be contorted to permit a punishment of a player after the NFL clears the player, the spirit of Article 46 suggests that doing so would betray its essence. Michael Mccann,, "Could Roger Goodell Change Mind in Disciplining Ezekiel Elliott After Pressed Charges?," 16 July 2019 If Sofia Macy felt that her mother, or both her parents, betrayed her, those wounds may have healed, at least according to reports about her family’s celebratory mood at her graduation ceremony, which took place the the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Martha Ross, The Mercury News, "Daughter’s high school graduation gives Felicity Huffman something to celebrate," 11 June 2019 That my height had betrayed me one summer when my jeans receded from my ankles to comfortably rest around my calves. Stephen A. Crockett Jr., The Root, "The Great Escape: A Journey to the Center of Myself," 18 May 2018 The dramatic finale, when Tosca discovers that Scarpia has betrayed her and — spoiler alert! — leaps to her death from the Castel Sant’ Angelo, will not be shortchanged. Anthony Barcellos, sacbee, "Full-throated if not quite fully staged, it’s ‘Tosca’," 4 May 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of betray

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

History and Etymology for betray

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about betray

Statistics for betray

Last Updated

7 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for betray

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for betray



English Language Learners Definition of betray

: 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


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

Kids Definition of betray

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on betray

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with betray

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for betray

Spanish Central: Translation of betray

Nglish: Translation of betray for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of betray for Arabic Speakers

Comments on betray

What made you want to look up betray? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


authorized for issue (as a bond)

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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