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[pri-veyl] /prɪˈveɪl/
verb (used without object)
to be widespread or current; exist everywhere or generally:
Silence prevailed along the funeral route.
to appear or occur as the more important or frequent feature or element; predominate:
Green tints prevail in the upholstery.
to be or prove superior in strength, power, or influence (usually followed by over):
They prevailed over their enemies in the battle.
to succeed; become dominant; win out:
to wish that the right side might prevail.
to use persuasion or inducement successfully:
He prevailed upon us to accompany him.
Origin of prevail
1350-1400; Middle English prevayllen to grow very strong < Latin praevalēre to be more able, equivalent to prae- pre- + valēre to be strong; see prevalent
Related forms
prevailer, noun
2. preponderate. 3. overcome.
3. lose. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for prevail
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • To suppose that the weak must prevail because it was weak was sheer sentimentality.

    The Dust Flower Basil King
  • In that war they could not prevail so as to change the mores.

    Folkways William Graham Sumner
  • As the spring advanced, sickness began to prevail in Deerham.

    Verner's Pride Mrs. Henry Wood
  • But if that be so, the same doctrine must prevail in trespass.

    The Common Law Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
  • Similar customs are said to prevail in the Dutch East Indies and elsewhere.

British Dictionary definitions for prevail


verb (intransitive)
often foll by over or against. to prove superior; gain mastery: skill will prevail
to be or appear as the most important feature; be prevalent
to exist widely; be in force
often foll by on or upon. to succeed in persuading or inducing
Derived Forms
prevailer, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Latin praevalēre to be superior in strength, from prae beyond + valēre to be strong
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 prevail

c.1400, "be successful; be efficacious," from Old French prevaleir (Modern French prévaloir) and directly from Latin praevalere "be stronger, have greater power," from prae "before" (see pre-) + valere "have power, be strong" (see valiant). Spelling in English perhaps influenced by avail. Related: Prevailed; prevailing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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