pre·​vail | \ pri-ˈvāl How to pronounce prevail (audio) \
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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for prevail


conquer, triumph, win



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

But the settlement is far less than the tens of millions of dollars Mr. Kaepernick, especially, would have likely been owed if his grievance had prevailed. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "NFL Paid Under $10 Million to Settle Colin Kaepernick Grievance," 21 Mar. 2019 Of course, there were many years during which it was expected by many, including governments, that the Open Systems Internetworking (OSI) standards would prevail over the internet’s TCP/IP. Popular Mechanics, "The Death of the Internet," 7 Feb. 2019 The fashion world is inundated with the same old images everywhere, as this is the prevailing business model. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "“It’s Hard to Find Interesting New Things”—A Chat with Rei Kawakubo as She Wins the Noguchi Award," 3 May 2019 The prevailing belief was that the adult brain was completely formed and unchangeable. Samantha Boardman, Marie Claire, "Can People Really Change?," 26 Mar. 2019 Meanwhile, the Thursday threat to shut down the government over funding for the wall comes amid no strategy for prevailing in this fight. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Trump Volatility Risks," 20 Dec. 2018 One bill reworks the state’s prevailing wage law, which sets a minimum wage for workers on public construction projects, like roads, schools, jails and other government projects. Jason Hancock, Allison Kite And Tessa Weinberg, kansascity, "GOP lawmakers mark victories in 2018 session despite cloud cast by Greitens’ scandals | The Kansas City Star," 18 May 2018 Republicans had been cautiously optimistic about prevailing in the 8th Congressional District, where Trent Franks, who resigned last year, had won by 37 points. Author: David Weigel, John Wagner, Anchorage Daily News, "Republican wins closely watched special election in Arizona," 25 Apr. 2018 Evers is the only Democrat to oversee a major state agency and he and previous Democratic DPI chiefs have been at odds with Republican governors going back to the 1990s and prevailed in each challenge to their authority. Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Supreme Court gives win to Tony Evers over Gov. Scott Walker in case challenging authority," 27 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about prevail

Statistics for prevail

Last Updated

24 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for prevail

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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 How to pronounce prevail (audio) \
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 How to pronounce prevail (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on prevail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with prevail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for prevail

Spanish Central: Translation of prevail

Nglish: Translation of prevail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prevail for Arabic Speakers

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).


to speak slightingly about or to degrade

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
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!