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 The prevailing understanding of the direction of the Chinese economy and the reasons for its slowdown is of great importance to the United States and its allies and partners. Daniel H. Rosen, Foreign Affairs, 13 Nov. 2023 Align your language, tone, and mannerisms with the prevailing atmosphere to ensure clear and empathetic communication. Mike S. Shapiro, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 When the northern stream is dominant, the prevailing storm track shifts to our west. Jason Samenow, Washington Post, 9 Nov. 2023 Most seem to feel it’s been the latter, with a prevailing sentiment that major-label releases have been lacking. Andre Gee, Rolling Stone, 7 Nov. 2023 Amo was largely considered to be the front-runner in the heavily blue district after prevailing in a very crowded special Democratic primary that included 12 candidates. Mike Pappano, ABC News, 7 Nov. 2023 The defense has attempted to show, in its clumsy way, that fantasy prevailed for everybody all the way down. Gideon Lewis-Kraus, The New Yorker, 3 Nov. 2023 On Thursday's episode of Today with Hoda & Jenna, Bush Hager, 41, celebrated the Texas Rangers' first-ever World Series victory, explaining the excitement her family felt watching their favorite team prevail over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Kyler Alvord, Peoplemag, 2 Nov. 2023 Twenty years ago, Democrats held most of those seats; now, Republicans occupy all 12, even in states where Democrats have prevailed in other statewide contests for governor, attorney general and the United States Senate, like North Carolina, West Virginia and Georgia. David W. Chen Jon Cherry, New York Times, 1 Nov. 2023 See More

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 28 Nov. 2023.

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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