verb (used without object), fell, fall·en, fall·ing.

  1. to drop or descend under the force of gravity, as to a lower place through loss or lack of support.
  2. to come or drop down suddenly to a lower position, especially to leave a standing or erect position suddenly, whether voluntarily or not: to fall on one’s knees.
  3. to become less or lower; become of a lower level, degree, amount, quality, value, number, etc.; decline: The temperature fell ten degrees. Stock prices fell to a new low for the year.
  4. to subside or abate.
  5. extend downward; hang down: Her hair falls to her shoulders.
  6. to become lowered or directed downward, as the eyes: My eyes fell before his steady gaze.
  7. to become lower in pitch or volume: Her voice fell, and she looked about in confusion.
  8. to succumb to temptation or sin, especially to become unchaste or to lose one’s innocence.
  9. to lose status, dignity, position, character, etc.
  10. to succumb to attack: The city fell to the enemy.
  11. to be overthrown, as a government.
  12. to drop down wounded or dead, especially to be slain: to fall in battle.
  13. to pass into some physical, mental, or emotional condition: to fall asleep; to fall in love.
  14. to envelop or come as if by dropping, as stillness or night.
  15. to issue forth: Witty remarks fall easily from his lips.
  16. to come by lot or chance: The chore fell to him.
  17. to come by chance into a particular position: to fall among thieves.
  18. to come to pass, occur, or become at a certain time: Christmas falls on a Monday this year. The rent falls due the first of every month.
  19. to have its proper place: The accent falls on the last syllable.
  20. to come by right: The inheritance fell to the only living relative.
  21. to be naturally divisible (usually followed by into): The story fell into two distinct parts.
  22. to lose animation; appear disappointed, as the face: His face fell when he heard the bad news.
  23. to slope or extend in a downward direction: The field falls gently to the river.
  24. to be directed, as light, sight, etc., on something: His eyes fell upon the note on the desk.
  25. to collapse, as through weakness, damage, poor construction, or the like; topple or sink: The old tower fell under its own weight. The cake fell when he slammed the oven door.
  26. (of an animal, especially a lamb) to be born: Two lambs fell yesterday.

verb (used with object), fell, fall·en, fall·ing.

  1. to fell (a tree, animal, etc.).


  1. an act or instance of falling or dropping from a higher to a lower place or position.
  2. that which falls or drops: a heavy fall of rain.
  3. the season of the year that comes after summer and before winter; autumn.
  4. a becoming less; a lowering or decline; a sinking to a lower level: the fall of the Roman Empire.
  5. the distance through which anything falls: It is a long fall to the ground from this height.
  6. Usually falls. a cataract or waterfall.
  7. downward slope or declivity: the gentle rise and fall of the meadow.
  8. a falling from an erect position, as to the ground: to have a bad fall.
  9. a hanging down: a fall of long hair.
  10. a succumbing to temptation; lapse into sin.
  11. the Fall, (sometimes lowercase) Theology. the lapse of human beings into a state of natural or innate sinfulness through the sin of Adam and Eve.
  12. Slang. an arrest by the police.
  13. surrender or capture, as of a city.
  14. proper place: the fall of an accent on a syllable.
  15. Wrestling.
    1. an act or instance of holding or forcing an opponent’s shoulders against the mat for a specified length of time.
    2. a match or division of a match.
  16. a hairpiece consisting of long hair that is attached to one’s own hair at the crown and usually allowed to hang freely down the back of the head so as to cover or blend with the natural hair.
  17. an opaque veil hanging loose from the back of a hat.
  18. falling band.
  19. a decorative cascade of lace, ruffles, or the like.
  20. Machinery, Nautical. the part of the rope of a tackle to which the power is applied in hoisting.
  21. Hunting. a deadfall.
  22. the long soft hair that hangs over the forehead and eyes of certain terriers.
  23. Armor. a pivoted peak projecting over the face opening of a burgonet.
  24. Astrology. the sign of the zodiac in which the most negative influence of a planet is expressed (opposed to exaltationdef 5).
  25. Mining. rock or ore that has collapsed from a roof, hanging wall, or the sides of a passage.

Verb Phrases

  1. fall away,
    1. to withdraw support or allegiance: The candidate’s supporters fell away when he advocated racial discrimination.
    2. to become lean or thin; diminish; decline.
    3. to forsake one’s faith, cause, or principles: Many fell away because they were afraid of reprisals.
  2. fall back, to give way; recede; retreat: The relentless shelling forced the enemy to fall back.
  3. fall back on/upon,
    1. Also fall back to.to retreat to: They fell back on their entrenchments. The troops fell back to their original position.
    2. to have recourse to; rely on: They had no savings to fall back on.
  4. fall behind,
    1. to lag, in pace or progress: We are falling behind in our work. Fatigued, some of the marchers fell behind.
    2. to fail to pay (a debt, obligation, etc.) at the appointed time: She fell behind in her tax payments, and the property was confiscated.
  5. fall down, Informal. to perform disappointingly; to disappoint; fail: He was doing well on the exam until he fell down on the last essay question.
  6. fall for, Slang.
    1. to be deceived by: Imagine falling for such an old trick.
    2. to fall in love with: He’s not at all the type you would expect her to fall for.
  7. fall in,
    1. to fall to pieces toward the interior; sink inward.
    2. to take one’s place in the ranks, as a soldier.
    3. Also fall in with.to become acquainted with, especially by chance: We fell in with an interesting couple from Paris.
  8. fall off,
    1. to separate from; withdraw.
    2. to decrease in number, amount, or intensity; diminish: Tourism falls off when the summer is over.
    3. Nautical.to deviate from the heading; fall to leeward.
    4. South Midland and Southern U.S.to lose weight, usually due to illness: She was sick all winter and fell off till she was just skin and bones.
  9. fall on/upon,
    1. to assault; attack: The enemy fell on them suddenly from the rear.
    2. to be the obligation of: It has fallen on me to support the family.
    3. to experience; encounter: Once well-to-do, they had fallen on hard times.
    4. to chance upon; come upon: I fell upon the idea while looking through a magazine.
  10. fall out,
    1. to quarrel; disagree: We fell out over who was to wash the dishes.
    2. to happen; occur: It fell out that we met by chance weeks later.
    3. to leave one’s place in the ranks, as a soldier: They were ordered to fall out when the parade ended.
    4. Slang.to burst out laughing.
    5. South Midland and Southern U.S.to become unconscious; pass out.
  11. fall through, to come to nothing; fail of realization: Despite all his efforts, the deal fell through.
  12. fall to,
    1. to apply oneself; begin: to fall to work.
    2. to begin to eat: They fell to and soon finished off the entire turkey.
  13. fall under,
    1. to be the concern or responsibility of.
    2. to be classified as; be included within: That case falls under the heading of errors of judgment.

  1. fall all over oneself, to show unusual or excessive enthusiasm or eagerness, especially in the hope of being favored or rewarded: The young trainees fell all over themselves to praise the boss’s speech.Also fall over oneself.
  2. fall/come short. short(def 44).
  3. fall foul/afoul of. foul(def 38).
  4. fall off the roof, Slang: Older Use. to menstruate.
  5. fall/land on one’s feet. feet(def 3).
  6. fall out of bed, to get out of bed quickly.
  7. fall over backward(s),
    1. bend1(def 21).
    2. to exhibit great eagerness, especially in pursuit of one’s own advantage: The candidate fell over backward in support of the issues that would win votes.


  1. the Fall theol Adam’s sin of disobedience and the state of innate sinfulness ensuing from this for himself and all mankindSee also original sin

verb falls, falling, fell (fɛl) or fallen (ˈfɔːlən) (mainly intr)

  1. to descend by the force of gravity from a higher to a lower place
  2. to drop suddenly from an erect position
  3. to collapse to the ground, esp in pieces
  4. to become less or lower in number, quality, etcprices fell in the summer
  5. to become lower in pitch
  6. to extend downwardsher hair fell to her waist
  7. to be badly wounded or killed
  8. to slope in a downward direction
  9. Christianity to yield to temptation or sin
  10. to diminish in status, estimation, etc
  11. to yield to attackthe city fell under the assault
  12. to lose powerthe government fell after the riots
  13. to pass into or take on a specified conditionto fall asleep; fall in love
  14. to adopt a despondent expressionher face fell
  15. to be avertedher gaze fell
  16. to come by chance or presumptionsuspicion fell on the butler
  17. to occur; take placenight fell; Easter falls early this year
  18. (of payments) to be due
  19. to be directed to a specific point
  20. (foll by back, behind, etc) to move in a specified direction
  21. to occur at a specified placethe accent falls on the last syllable
  22. (foll by to) to return (to); be inherited (by)the estate falls to the eldest son
  23. (often foll by into, under, etc) to be classified or includedthe subject falls into two main areas
  24. to issue fortha curse fell from her lips
  25. (of animals, esp lambs) to be born
  26. British dialect to become pregnant
  27. (tr) Australian and NZ dialect to fell (trees)
  28. cricket (of a batsman’s wicket) to be taken by the bowling sidethe sixth wicket fell for 96
  29. archaic to begin to dofall a-doing; fall to doing
  30. fall flat to fail to achieve a desired effect
  31. fall foul of
    1. to come into conflict with
    2. nauticalto come into collision with
  32. fall short
    1. to prove inadequate
    2. (often foll by of)to fail to reach or measure up to (a standard)


  1. an act or instance of falling
  2. something that fallsa fall of snow
  3. mainly US autumn
  4. the distance that something fallsa hundred-foot fall
  5. a sudden drop from an upright position
  6. (often plural)
    1. a waterfall or cataract
    2. (capital when part of a name)Niagara Falls
  7. a downward slope or decline
  8. a decrease in value, number, etc
  9. a decline in status or importance
  10. a moral lapse or failing
  11. a capture or overthrowthe fall of the city
  12. a long false hairpiece; switch
  13. a piece of loosely hanging material, such as a veil on a hat
  14. machinery nautical the end of a tackle to which power is applied to hoist it
  15. nautical one of the lines of a davit for holding, lowering, or raising a boat
  16. Also called: pinfall wrestling a scoring move, pinning both shoulders of one’s opponent to the floor for a specified period
  17. hunting
    1. another word for deadfall
    2. (as modifier)a fall trap
    1. the birth of an animal
    2. the animals produced at a single birth
  18. take the fall slang, mainly US to be blamed, punished, or imprisoned

present participle adjective from fall (v.). Falling star is from 1560s; falling out “disagreement” is from 1560s. Falling evil “epilepsy” is from early 13c.


Old English feallan (class VII strong verb; past tense feoll, past participle feallen) “to fall; fail, decay, die,” from Proto-Germanic *fallanan (cf. Old Frisian falla, Old Saxon fallan, Dutch vallen, Old Norse falla, Old High German fallan, German fallen), from PIE root *pol- “to fall” (cf. Armenian p’ul “downfall,” Lithuanian puola “to fall,” Old Prussian aupallai “finds,” literally “falls upon”).

Most of the figurative senses had developed in Middle English. Meaning “to be reduced” (as temperature) is from 1650s. To fall in love is attested from 1520s; to fall asleep is late 14c. Fall through “come to naught” is from 1781. To fall for something is from 1903.


c.1200, “a falling;” see fall (n.). Old English noun form, fealle, meant “snare, trap.” Sense of “autumn” (now only in U.S.) is 1660s, short for fall of the leaf (1540s). That of “cascade, waterfall” is from 1570s. Wrestling sense is from 1550s. Of a city under siege, etc., 1580s. Fall guy is from 1906.

In addition to the idioms beginning with fall

  • fall all over oneself
  • fall apart
  • fall asleep
  • fall away
  • fall back
  • fall back on
  • fall behind
  • fall between the cracks
  • fall by the wayside
  • fall down
  • fall flat
  • fall for
  • fall from grace
  • fall guy
  • fall in
  • falling down drunk
  • fall in line
  • fall in love
  • fall in place
  • fall into
  • fall in with
  • fall off
  • fall off the wagon
  • fall on
  • fall on deaf ears
  • fall on one’s face
  • fall on one’s feet
  • fall out
  • fall over
  • fall short of
  • fall through
  • fall through the cracks
  • fall to
  • fall under

also see:

  • bottom drops (falls) out
  • break one’s fall
  • easy as pie (falling off a log)
  • let drop (fall)
  • let the chips fall where they may
  • ride for a fall
  • take the fall

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