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[bih-fawl] /bɪˈfɔl/
verb (used without object), befell, befallen, befalling.
to happen or occur.
Archaic. to come, as by right.
verb (used with object), befell, befallen, befalling.
to happen to, especially by chance or fate.
Origin of befall
before 900; Middle English befallen, Old English befeallan. See be-, fall (v.)
1. bechance, ensue, betide, materialize, chance. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for befallen
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • A sharp pistol report a moment after told me what had befallen the poor Hungarian; but I had little time to think of his fate.

  • The afternoon was not very advanced, for all that had befallen him.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
  • His companions sped merrily on, not noticing what had befallen him, and he was left to disentangle himself as best he could.

    The Scottish Fairy Book Elizabeth W. Grierson
  • Immediately after escaping from this peril, a still greater one had befallen him.

    Tanglewood Tales Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • I was afraid some accident might have befallen him, for I was very certain that he would not have deserted me.

    Dick Onslow W.H.G. Kingston
  • We cheered, thinking some dire calamity had befallen the enemy.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • We soon joined him at the Htel des Etrangers, and inquired eagerly regarding the accident which had befallen him.

    Reminiscences, 1819-1899 Julia Ward Howe.
  • "God give that that has not befallen her," moaned Professor Maxon.

    The Monster Men Edgar Rice Burroughs
British Dictionary definitions for befallen


verb (archaic or literary) -falls, -falling, -fell, -fallen
(intransitive) to take place; come to pass
(transitive) to happen to
(intransitive) usually foll by to. to be due, as by right
Word Origin
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
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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
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