[ bih-trey-uhl ]
/ bɪˈtreɪ əl /
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the act of exposing or delivering someone to an enemy through treachery or disloyalty:This security leak was an inexcusable betrayal of an ally whose very existence is now threatened.
the act of disappointing a person’s trust, hopes, or expectations:Imagine what a betrayal it is each time a rape victim finds out that her fellow citizens, and our legal system, are just not there for her.
the act of revealing information in violation of confidence:The library, which carried books criticizing the regime, was kept in private homes and frequently had to be moved to avoid betrayal of its secret to the local authorities.
failure to keep or honor a promise, principle, cherished memory, etc.:Many of his constituents are unhappy with his promotion of new mining and logging initiatives, seeing it as a betrayal of his green ideals.
an act or instance of unconsciously revealing or displaying some quality or characteristic, typically one preferably concealed:A slight tremor in her hand was the only betrayal of her fear.
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Origin of betrayal


pre·be·tray·al, nounself-be·tray·al, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does betrayal mean?

Betrayal is when someone you trust breaks that trust by doing something that hurts you. This can take many forms, such as a soldier working with the enemy, one family member stealing from another, or a friend spreading rumors about another friend.

Betrayal is the noun form of the verb betray, which means to be disloyal or traitorous.

A specific act of disloyalty is a betrayal, as in The businessman never forgave his partner’s betrayal of joining his hated rival’s company. 

Betrayal is also used to describe how you reveal something unconsciously, like how a blush betrays embarrassment.

An act is only considered a betrayal if it violates an existing trust. The word typically implies a serious violation of trust that causes serious harm.

Example: The knights’ betrayal of their king helped the invaders win the war.

Where does betrayal come from?

The word betrayal comes from  the 1540s. It is based on the verb betray, which comes from the Latin trādere meaning “to hand over.” The noun traitor also comes from this verb. The suffix -al is used to form nouns from verbs, like in removal or withdrawal.

Throughout history, betrayals have been considered one of the most vile and cowardly acts that a person could perform. Even today, betrayal of a person’s country is considered one of the worst crimes a person can commit. In fact, United States law specifically recommends that traitors face the highest possible punishment.

In Inferno, part one of the epic poem The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri,  people guilty of betrayal are sent to the lowest, cruelest depths of Hell. According to the poem, Satan himself spends his time torturing history’s biggest traitors.

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What are some other forms related to betrayal?

  • betray (verb)
  • betrayer (noun)

What are some synonyms for betrayal?

What are some words that share a root or word element with betrayal

What are some words that often get used in discussing betrayal?

How is betrayal used in real life?

Betrayal is used to mean a severe violation of trust.



Try using betrayal!

Which of the following is an antonym (opposite) of betrayal?

A. deceit
B. loyalty
C. cowardliness
D. treason

How to use betrayal in a sentence