pre·​vail pri-ˈvāl How to pronounce prevail (audio)
prevailed; prevailing; prevails

intransitive verb

: to gain ascendancy through strength or superiority : triumph
: to be or become effective or effectual
: to use persuasion successfully
prevailed on him to sing
: to be frequent : predominate
the west winds that prevail in the mountains
: to be or continue in use or fashion : persist
a custom that still prevails

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.
Recent Examples on the Web McGrory said not tapping public funding for the developments means fewer requirements, such as prevailing wage mandates. Michael Smolens, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 May 2024 If that argument prevailed, Bardo might one day walk free. Christopher Goffard, Los Angeles Times, 8 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for prevail 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'prevail.' 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 Latin praevalēre, from prae- pre- + valēre to be strong — more at wield

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near prevail

Cite this Entry

“Prevail.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


pre·​vail pri-ˈvā(ə)l How to pronounce prevail (audio)
: to win against opposition : be successful
our team prevailed
truth will prevail over error
believed injustice should not prevail
: to urge successfully
prevailed upon me to play a few tunes
: to be frequent
the storms that prevail there in winter
: to be or continue to be in use or fashion
lower rates prevail in the evening
customs that still prevail

Legal Definition


intransitive verb
pre·​vail pri-ˈvāl How to pronounce prevail (audio)
: to obtain substantially the relief or action sought in a lawsuit
: to be frequent or predominant
the prevailing rate

More from Merriam-Webster on prevail

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