• synonyms


  1. descent to a lower position or standing; overthrow; ruin.
  2. something causing ruin, failure, etc.: Liquor was his downfall.
  3. a fall, as of rain, snow, or the like, often sudden or heavy.
  4. a trap using a falling weight for killing, injuring, or imprisoning the prey.
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Origin of downfall

Middle English word dating back to 1250–1300; see origin at down1, fall
Related formsdown·fall·en, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for downfallen

Historical Examples

  • Very likely he is staring at a downfallen horse and has forgotten this affair.

    Baboo Jabberjee, B.A.

    F. Anstey

  • At prayers morning and evening, it was pitiful to observe her glance of entreaty and her downfallen eyelashes.

  • A strange look of wonder illuminated the face of the downfallen man.

  • But the poor gentleman—the downfallen man of rank—the degraded man of birth—the disabled and disarmed man of power!

    St. Ronan's Well

    Sir Walter Scott

  • All of his life that is known to us was passed in the company of publicans, of the downfallen, and of Pharisees.

    My Religion

    Leo Tolstoy

British Dictionary definitions for downfallen


  1. (of a building, etc) decrepit
  2. mainly US (of a person) ruined; fallen
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  1. a sudden loss of position, health, or reputation
  2. a fall of rain, snow, etc, esp a sudden heavy one
  3. another word for deadfall
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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 downfallen



"ruin, fall from high condition," c.1300, from down (adv.) + fall (v.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper