verb (used with object), be·reaved or be·reft, be·reav·ing.

  1. to deprive and make desolate, especially by death (usually followed by of): Illness bereaved them of their mother.
  2. to deprive ruthlessly or by force (usually followed by of): The war bereaved them of their home.
  3. Obsolete. to take away by violence.

verb (tr)

  1. (usually foll by of) to deprive (of) something or someone valued, esp through death
  2. obsolete to remove by force

Old English bereafian “to deprive of, take away, seize, rob,” from be + reafian “rob, plunder,” from Proto-Germanic *raubojanan, from PIE *reup- “to snatch” (see rapid). A common Germanic formation (cf. Old Frisian birava “despoil,” Old Saxon biroban, Dutch berooven, Old High German biroubon, German berauben, Gothic 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.

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