Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English bewraien, bewreyen, biwreyen, from Old English *bewrēġan, from Proto-Germanic *biwrōgijaną (to speak about; tell on; inform of), equivalent to be- +‎ wray. Cognate with Old Frisian biwrōgja (to disclose, reveal), Dutch bewroegen (to blame; accuse), Middle Low German bewrȫgen (to accuse; complain about; punish), Old High German biruogen (to disclose, reveal), Modern German berügen (to defraud).


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

  1. (transitive, archaic) To accuse; malign; speak evil of.
  2. (transitive) To reveal, divulge, or make (something) known; disclose.
    • 1594, Christopher Marlowe, Edward II, London: William Jones,[1]
      His countenance bewraies he is displeasd.
    • 2013, Miguel Asin Palacios, Islam and the Divine Comedy, page 75:
      A comparison with the Divine Comedy of all these versions combined bewrays many points of resemblance, and even of absolute coincidence, in the general architecture and ethical structure of hell and paradise; in the description of the tortures and rewards; []
    1. (transitive) To reveal or disclose and show the presence or true character of, especially if unintentionally or incidentally, or else if perfidiously, prejudicially, or to one's discredit.
      • 1567, Arthur Golding (translator), The XV. Bookes of P. Ouidius Naso, entytuled Metamorphosis, Book 2, lines 539-40, p. 21,[2]
        He tooke hir fast betwéene his armes, and not without his shame,
        Bewrayed plainly what he was and wherefore that he came.
      • 1580, John Lyly, Euphues and his England, London: Gabriell Cawood, p. 100,[3]
        But to put you out of doubt that my wits were not all this while a wol-gathering, I was debating with my selfe whether in loue, it wer better to be constant, bewraying all the counsayles, or secret, being readye euery houre to flinch:
      • 1591, William Shakespeare, Henry VI, part III:
        Why, Warwick, canst thou speak against thy Liege, Whom thou obeyedst thirty and six years, And not bewray thy treason with a blush?
      • c. 1607, William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, Act V, Scene 3,[4]
        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
    2. (transitive) To expose or rat out (someone).
      • 1611, King James Version of the Bible, Matthew 26:73,[5]
        And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.
      • 1846, Introduction to Letter 40 in Henry Ellis (editor), Original Letters, Illustrative of English History, Third Series, Volume I, London: Richard Bentley, p. 100,[6]
        While this 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.
      • 1892, John Greenleaf Whittier, “The Pennsylvania Pilgrim”, in The Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier [], volume I (Narrative and Legendary Poems), Boston, Mass.; New York, N.Y.: Houghton Mifflin and Company [], OCLC 1083547761, page 328:
        One Scripture rule, at least, was unforgot; / He hid the outcast, and bewrayed him not; []
    3. (transitive, obsolete) To expose to harm.
    4. (transitive, obsolete) To expose (a deception).
      • 1581, John Lyly, Campaspe: Played Beefore the Queenes Maiestie on Twelfe Day at Night:
        They place affection by times, by pollicy, by appoyntment, if they frowne, who dares call them vnconstant, if bewray secrets, who will tearme them vntrue, if fall to other loues, who trembles not, if he call them vnfaithfull.
      • 1731, The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Sons of Jacob, page 74:
        For I was sore afraid of my Brothers, because they had all conspired together to kill him with the Sword that should bewray that Secret.
      • 1927, Plutarch (Philemon Holland), Plutarch's Moralia - Part 1, →ISBN, page 244:
        For to discover this matter the better, he saith consequently: That the nature of virtuous men and those who have noble bringing up, is directly opposite unto that of long-tongued persons; and joining the reasons by which a man ought not to bewray his secret, together with those evils and inconveniences which curiosity and much babble do bring, and confirming all by fine similitudes and notable examples: ....
Usage notesEdit

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

Derived termsEdit

Etymology 2Edit

Variant of beray.


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

  1. (obsolete) To soil or befoul; to beray.
    • 1728, Alexander Pope, The Dunciad, London: A. Dodd, Book 2, p. 18,[8]
      Obscene with filth the varlet lies bewray’d,
      Fal’n in the plash his wickedness had lay’d:
    • 1785, William Cowper, “Tirocinium” in The Task, London: J. Johnson, p. 324,[9]
      Like caterpillars dangling under trees
      By slender threads, and swinging in the breeze,
      Which filthily bewray and sore disgrace
      The boughs in which are bred th’ unseemly race []

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.
(See the entry for bewray in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)