pre·vail | \ pri-ˈvāl \
prevailed; prevailing; prevails

Definition of prevail 

intransitive verb

1 : to gain ascendancy through strength or superiority : triumph

2 : to be or become effective or effectual

3 : to use persuasion successfully prevailed on him to sing

4 : to be frequent : predominate the west winds that prevail in the mountains

5 : to be or continue in use or fashion : persist a custom that still prevails

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Synonyms & Antonyms for prevail


hold out, hold up, keep up, last, survive


fail, fizzle, give out, go out, peter (out), run out

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Examples of prevail in a Sentence

Mutual respect prevails among students and teachers here. The house was built in the style that prevailed in the 1980s. The law still prevails in some states.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The federal police, who are holding da Silva, remained silent while legal experts debated on TV which judge’s decision should prevail. Washington Post, "Brazil judge rules to keep da Silva in jail after dispute," 8 July 2018 Of the 19 districts where establishment districts have prevailed over insurgent progressives, 11 are rated competitive by Cook. NBC News, "Meet the Press - July 1, 2018," 1 July 2018 The likelihood of them prevailing is low and the process often takes years to resolve. Luis Mancheno, CBS News, "Analysis: How the asylum process works, and how it needs to change," 8 June 2018 The havoc is multiplied by Mount Hood, which towers over the gorge and divides the prevailing winds like a big boulder in a stream. Peter Fairley, Scientific American, "Weather-Smart Electric Grids Are Needed for Wind and Solar Power to Surge," 13 July 2018 And that is if common sense (from a basketball standpoint) doesn't prevail and Carmelo doesn't sign with the Rockets. Ira Winderman,, "ASK IRA: Readers sound off (a lot) on Carmelo-Heat possibility," 11 July 2018 Decor: Water is the prevailing motif, like the bar that has been crafted from the top of a sailboat and the paintings and artwork on the walls. Patrick Z. Mcgavin, Post-Tribune, "Guide to outdoor dining in Chicago suburbs and NWI: Lighthouse Restaurant in Cedar Lake," 9 July 2018 Ramos pursued appeals of that order until 2016 but did not prevail., "We can’t afford to replace empathy with apathy," 29 June 2018 Ramos pursued appeals of that order until 2016 but did not prevail. Anchorage Daily News, "Suspect in Capital Gazette shooting had sued paper for defamation," 29 June 2018

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

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First Known Use of prevail

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for prevail

Middle English, from Latin praevalēre, from prae- pre- + valēre to be strong — more at wield

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Statistics for prevail

Last Updated

13 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for prevail

The first known use of prevail was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for prevail



English Language Learners Definition of prevail

: to defeat an opponent especially in a long or difficult contest

: to be usual, common, or popular

: to be or continue to be in use


pre·vail | \ pri-ˈvāl \
prevailed; prevailing

Kids Definition of prevail

1 : to succeed in convincing Students prevailed upon the teacher to extend recess.

2 : to be or become usual, common, or widespread West winds prevail in that region.

3 : to win against opposition Good will prevail over evil.

pre·vail | \ pri-ˈvāl \

Legal Definition of prevail 

1 : to obtain substantially the relief or action sought in a lawsuit

2 : to be frequent or predominant the prevailing rate

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Comments on prevail

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


alleviating pain or harshness

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