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[bih-reev] /bɪˈriv/
verb (used with object), bereaved or bereft, bereaving.
to deprive and make desolate, especially by death (usually followed by of):
Illness bereaved them of their mother.
to deprive ruthlessly or by force (usually followed by of):
The war bereaved them of their home.
Obsolete. to take away by violence.
Origin of bereave
before 900; Middle English bereven, Old English berēafian; cognate with Dutch berooven, German berauben, Gothic biraubōn. See be-, reave1
Related forms
bereavement, noun
bereaver, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for bereave
Historical Examples
  • But if that union be calculated to bereave her of happiness, it cannot certainly be conducive to yours.

    Jane Talbot Charles Brockden Brown
  • What we love that we have, but by desire we bereave ourselves of the love.

    Essays, First Series Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Though ye take from a covetous man his treasure, he has yet one jewel left; ye cannot bereave him of his covetousness.

    On Compromise John Morley
  • I think of the fathers and mothers whom further fighting must bereave.

    Foch the Man Clara E. Laughlin
  • Receive, and believe, and bereave should be cut out at once.

  • It seemed as if God intended to bereave us of her, for he brought her even to death's door.

  • Yea, though they bring up their sons I bereave them, till they are poor in men.

  • The loss of all others will not bereave you of happiness if this be possessed.

    Jane Talbot Charles Brockden Brown
  • To whom, think ye, is your life of such consequence, that they should seek to bereave ye of it?

  • And yet imperious necessity may bereave us even of that joy.

    Jane Talbot Charles Brockden Brown
British Dictionary definitions for bereave


verb (transitive)
(usually foll by of) to deprive (of) something or someone valued, esp through death
(obsolete) to remove by force
See also bereft
Word Origin
Old English bereafian; see reave1
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 bereave

Old English bereafian "to deprive of, take away, seize, rob," from be + reafian "rob, plunder," from Proto-Germanic *raubojanan, from PIE *reup- "to snatch" (see rapid). A common Germanic formation (cf. Old Frisian birava "despoil," Old Saxon biroban, Dutch berooven, Old High German biroubon, German berauben, Gothic biraubon). Since mid-17c., mostly in reference to life, hope, loved ones, and other immaterial possessions. Past tense forms bereaved and bereft have co-existed since 14c., now slightly differentiated in meaning, the former applied to loss of loved ones, the latter to circumstances.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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