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 Their program would undercut an institution critical to the peace and prosperity that have prevailed on the continent since World War II — until Vladimir Putin, whom Le Pen openly admired before his full-scale invasion of Ukraine, dragged it back into bloodshed. Lee Hockstader, Washington Post, 5 July 2024 Some of the potential fallout seemingly hinges on which candidate prevails, while other scenarios could unfold no matter the winner. Daniel De Visé, USA TODAY, 3 July 2024 Much cooler weather prevailed along the coast, from the mid-70s to mid-80s. Ethan Baron, The Mercury News, 3 July 2024 Game Point prevailed 25-20, 25-22 in a head-to-head matchup vs. OTVA. Buddy Collings, Orlando Sentinel, 3 July 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 14 Jul. 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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