verb (used without object), be·fell, be·fall·en, be·fall·ing.

to happen or occur.
Archaic. to come, as by right.

verb (used with object), be·fell, be·fall·en, be·fall·ing.

to happen to, especially by chance or fate.

Origin of befall

before 900; Middle English befallen, Old English befeallan. See be-, fall (v.)

Synonyms for befall Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for befallen

Contemporary Examples of befallen

  • A similar fate would have befallen those who borrowed against their homes to purchase calls on Apple stock last summer.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Welcome to the Anarchy Economy

    Daniel Gross

    April 23, 2013

  • If someone were to ask me what disaster this was that had befallen my life, I might ask if they wanted the story or the truth.

    The Daily Beast logo
    If You Read This Book, You Will Not Get Married

    Melissa Holbrook Pierson

    August 11, 2012

Historical Examples of befallen

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for befallen


verb -falls, -falling, -fell or -fallen archaic, or literary

(intr) to take place; come to pass
(tr) to happen to
(intr usually foll by to) to be due, as by right

Word Origin for befall

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

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