be·​fall | \ bi-ˈfȯl How to pronounce befall (audio) , bē- \
befell\ bi-​ˈfel How to pronounce befall (audio) , bē-​ \; befallen\ bi-​ˈfȯ-​lən How to pronounce befall (audio) , bē-​ \

Definition of befall

intransitive verb

: to happen especially as if by fate

transitive verb

: to happen to the fate that befell them

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Examples of befall in a Sentence

It's sad to think of the unhappy fate that befell him. The drought was only one of many hardships to befall the small country.
Recent Examples on the Web Any planets closer to the star are likely to have been destroyed — and the same fate is likely to befall our own world when the sun burns up all of its hydrogen in 5 billion years or so. NBC News, 18 Oct. 2021 Pratt cited the current trajectory of pediatric covid-19 cases in Iowa since the start of the school year and the irreparable harm that could befall the children involved in this case as reasons for the order. Compiled Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 9 Oct. 2021 That fate is unlikely to befall the Trans-Iranian Railway just yet. Ben Jones, CNN, 15 Aug. 2021 However, alarm bells are ringing over what may befall the country's people in the coming months as the Taliban offensive gathers pace and Afghan security forces are left without the support of US and NATO air power. Sandi Sidhu And Anna Coren, CNN, 1 July 2021 To be a parent is to live in a state of love and terror, knowing all that could befall your children. Kelley Manley, Marie Claire, 23 Aug. 2021 The quake nearly wrecked some towns in the latest disaster to befall the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation. Mark Stevenson,, 17 Aug. 2021 As racial tension surged in the city, Mr. Mathelier’s mother pulled him out of baseball, fearful that Yusef Hawkins’s tragic fate would befall her son. Jessica Iredale, New York Times, 22 July 2021 None of that mattered much Sunday, when Harvey got most of his contact in the air and didn’t have any bad luck befall him. Jon Meoli,, 18 July 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'befall.' 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 befall

13th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for befall

Middle English befallen, going back to Old English befeallan (parallel to Old High German bifallan "to fall"), from be- be- + feallan "to fall entry 1"

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Time Traveler for befall

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near befall



be/fall prey to

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Statistics for befall

Last Updated

22 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Befall.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for befall



English Language Learners Definition of befall

: to happen to (someone or something)


be·​fall | \ bi-ˈfȯl How to pronounce befall (audio) \
befell\ -​ˈfel \; befallen\ -​ˈfȯ-​lən \; befalling

Kids Definition of befall

: to happen to … they would not have known about the good fortune which befell us …— Scott O'Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins

More from Merriam-Webster on befall

Nglish: Translation of befall for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of befall for Arabic Speakers


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