See more synonyms for bereave on
verb (used with object), be·reaved or be·reft, be·reav·ing.
  1. to deprive and make desolate, especially by death (usually followed by of): Illness bereaved them of their mother.
  2. to deprive ruthlessly or by force (usually followed by of): The war bereaved them of their home.
  3. 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 formsbe·reave·ment, nounbe·reav·er, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for bereave

dispossess, oust, sadden, rob, leave, strip, divest

Examples from the Web for bereave

Historical Examples of bereave

  • What we love that we have, but by desire we bereave ourselves of the love.

    Essays, First Series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • For as for that which doth not, it is its own fault and loss, if it bereave itself of her light.


    Marcus Aurelius

  • Receive, and believe, and bereave should be cut out at once.

  • I think of the fathers and mothers whom further fighting must bereave.

    Foch the Man

    Clara E. Laughlin

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

British Dictionary definitions for bereave


verb (tr)
  1. (usually foll by of) to deprive (of) something or someone valued, esp through death
  2. obsolete to remove by force
See also bereft

Word Origin for bereave

Old English bereafian; see reave 1
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 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