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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English bewraien, bewreyen, equivalent to be- +‎ wray, from Old English wrēġan(to accuse, impeach), from Proto-Germanic *wrōgijaną, *wrōhijaną(to tell, speak, shout), from Proto-Indo-European *were-, *wrē-(to tell, speak). Cognate with Old Frisian biwrōgja(to disclose, reveal), Old High German biruogen(to disclose, reveal), Modern German berügen(to defraud), Swedish röja(to betray).


bewray (third-person singular simple present bewrays, present participle bewraying, simple past and past participle bewrayed)

  1. (transitive, obsolete) To expose a deception.
  2. (transitive, archaic) To accuse; malign; speak evil of.
  3. (transitive) To reveal; divulge; make known; declare; inform.

1567 Arthur Golding: Ovid's Metamorphoses Bk. 2; lines 539-40

  He tooke hir fast betweene his armes, and not without his shame
  Bewrayed plainly what he was and wherefore that he came.
  1. (transitive) To expose a person, rat someone out.
    • 1850, The Gentleman's magazine: Volume 189:
      "While . . busy search was diligently applied and put in execution, Humphrey Banaster (were it more for fear of loss of life and goods, or attracted and provoked by the avaricious desire of the thousand pounds) he bewrayed his guest and master to John Mitton, then Sheriff of Shropshire, [...]"
    • 1890, The Times, 16 June, page 8, col. A
      I fear that if I was to attempt to detain you at length my speech would bewray me, and you would discover I was not that master of professional allusions which you might expect me to be.
  2. (transitive) To divulge a secret.
  3. (transitive) To disclose or reveal (usually with reference to a person's identity or true character) perfidiously, prejudicially, or to one's discredit or harm; betray; expose.
    • 1916, John Lyly, Euphues:
      But to put you out of doubt that my wits were not all this while a wool-gathering, I was debating with myself whether in love it were better to be constant, bewraying all the counsels, or secret, being ready every hour to flinch.
  4. (transitive) To reveal or disclose unintentionally or incidentally; show the presence or true character of; show or make visible.
    • c 1608, William Shakespeare, s:Coriolanus, Act 5, Scene III.
      Should we be silent and not speak, our raiment and state of bodies would bewray what life we have led since thy exile.
    • 1905, The Times, 22 August, page 6, col. A
      His very speeches bewray the man – intensely human, frank and single-hearted
Usage notes[edit]

This word is often glossed as being a synonym of "betray", but this is only valid for the senses of "betray" that involve a revelation of previously privileged information.

Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]


bewray (third-person singular simple present bewrays, present participle bewraying, simple past and past participle bewrayed)

  1. To soil or befoul; to beray.

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.