O.E. bereafian "to deprive of, take away, seize, rob," from be + reafian "rob, plunder," from P.Gmc. *raubojanan, from PIE *reup-, *reub- "to snatch." A common Germanic formation (cf. Du. berooven, Ger. berauben, Goth. 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.