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[bih-fawl] /bɪˈfɔl/
verb (used without object), befell, befallen, befalling.
to happen or occur.
Archaic. to come, as by right.
verb (used with object), befell, befallen, befalling.
to happen to, especially by chance or fate.
Origin of befall
before 900; Middle English befallen, Old English befeallan. See be-, fall (v.)
1. bechance, ensue, betide, materialize, chance. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for befallen
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She was kind-hearted; else never would calamity have befallen her.

  • The afternoon was not very advanced, for all that had befallen him.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Even while he was an infant in the cradle a strange accident had befallen hum.

    Biographical Stories Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Immediately after escaping from this peril, a still greater one had befallen him.

    Tanglewood Tales Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • We cheered, thinking some dire calamity had befallen the enemy.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • "God give that that has not befallen her," moaned Professor Maxon.

    The Monster Men Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Notscha hurried to his master and related with tears what had befallen him.

  • She clung to the conviction that he could never have heard of what had befallen her.

    Salted With Fire George MacDonald
British Dictionary definitions for befallen


verb (archaic or literary) -falls, -falling, -fell, -fallen
(intransitive) to take place; come to pass
(transitive) to happen to
(intransitive) usually foll by to. to be due, as by right
Word Origin
Old English befeallan; related to Old High German bifallan, Dutch bevallen; see be-, fall
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for befallen



Old English befeallan "to deprive of; fall to, be assigned to; befall," from be- "by, about" + feallan (see fall). Cf. Old Frisian bifalla, Old Saxon, Old High German bifallan, German befallen. Related: Befell; befalling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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