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[pit-fawl] /ˈpɪtˌfɔl/
a lightly covered and unnoticeable pit prepared as a trap for people or animals.
any trap or danger for the unwary:
the pitfall of excessive pride.
Origin of pitfall
1275-1325; Middle English pittefalle, equivalent to pitte pit1 + falle (Old English fealle) trap
1, 2. See trap1 . Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for pitfall
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • That's why I come, lest this appointment should ha' proved a pitfall to you.

    Rhoda Fleming, Complete George Meredith
  • He knew that somewhere a pitfall awaited him, yet hardly where.

    Bardelys the Magnificent Rafael Sabatini
  • Lincoln had digged a pitfall for unwary feet, and the great opportunist fell therein.

    The Battle of Principles Newell Dwight Hillis
  • She was far too subtle and wary to stumble into such a pitfall as that.

    Queen Elizabeth Jacob Abbott
  • I think I grasp your meaning, but if you try to follow up any clue I may have given you it can only lead you into a pitfall.

    The Dust of Conflict David Goodger (
British Dictionary definitions for pitfall


an unsuspected difficulty or danger
a trap in the form of a concealed pit, designed to catch men or wild animals
Word Origin
Old English pyttpit1 + fealle trap
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 pitfall

c.1300, "concealed hole," a type of animal trap, from pit (n.1) + fall (n.). Extended sense of "any hidden danger" is first recorded early 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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