v. & n.
v.intr. (past fell; past part. fallen) 1 a go or come down freely; descend rapidly from a higher to a lower level (fell from the top floor; rain was falling). b drop or be dropped (supplies fell by parachute; the curtain fell). 2 a (often foll. by over) cease to stand; come suddenly to the ground from loss of balance etc. b collapse forwards or downwards esp. of one's own volition (fell into my arms; fell over the chair). 3 become detached and descend or disappear. 4 take a downward direction: a (of hair, clothing, etc.) hang down. b (of ground etc.) slope. c (foll. by into) (of a river etc.) discharge into. 5 a find a lower level; sink lower. b subside, abate. 6 (of a barometer, thermometer, etc.) show a lower reading. 7 occur; become apparent or present (darkness fell). 8 decline, diminish (demand is falling; standards have fallen). 9 a (of the face) show dismay or disappointment. b (of the eyes or a glance) look downwards. 10 a lose power or status (the government will fall). b lose esteem, moral integrity, etc. 11 commit sin; yield to temptation. 12 take or have a particular direction or place (his eye fell on me; the accent falls on the first syllable). 13 a find a place; be naturally divisible (the subject falls into three parts). b (foll. by under, within) be classed among. 14 occur at a specified time (Easter falls early this year). 15 come by chance or duty (it fell to me to answer). 16 a pass into a specified condition (fall into decay; fell ill). b become (fall asleep). 17 a (of a position etc.) be overthrown or captured; succumb to attack. b be defeated; fail. 18 die (fall in battle). 19 (foll. by on, upon) a attack. b meet with. c embrace or embark on avidly. 20 (foll. by to + verbal noun) begin (fell to wondering). 21 (foll. by to) lapse, revert (revenues fall to the Crown).
n. 1 the act or an instance of falling; a sudden rapid descent. 2 that which falls or has fallen, e.g. snow, rocks, etc. 3 the recorded amount of rainfall etc. 4 a decline or diminution. 5 overthrow, downfall (the fall of Rome). 6 a succumbing to temptation. b (the Fall) the sin of Adam and its consequences, as described in Genesis. 7 (of material, land, light, etc.) a downward direction; a slope. 8 (also Fall) US autumn. 9 (esp. in pl.) a waterfall, cataract, or cascade. 10 Mus. a cadence. 11 a a wrestling-bout; a throw in wrestling which keeps the opponent on the ground for a specified time. b a controlled act of falling, esp. as a stunt or in judo etc. 12 a the birth of young of certain animals. b the number of young born. 13 a rope of a hoisting-tackle. fall about colloq. be helpless, esp. with laughter. fall apart (or to pieces) 1 break into pieces. 2 (of a situation etc.) disintegrate; be reduced to chaos. 3 lose one's capacity to cope. fall away 1 (of a surface) incline abruptly. 2 become few or thin; gradually vanish. 3 desert, revolt; abandon one's principles. fall back retreat. fall-back (attrib.) emergency, esp. (of wages) the minimum paid when no work is available. fall back on have recourse to in difficulty. fall behind 1 be outstripped by one's competitors etc.; lag. 2 be in arrears. fall down (often foll. by on) colloq. fail; perform poorly; fail to deliver (payment etc.). fall for colloq. 1 be captivated or deceived by. 2 admire; yield to the charms or merits of. fall foul of come into conflict with; quarrel with. fall guy sl. 1 an easy victim. 2 a scapegoat. fall in 1 a take one's place in military formation. b (as int.) the order to do this. 2 collapse inwards. falling star a meteor. fall in love see LOVE. fall into line 1 take one's place in the ranks. 2 conform or collaborate with others. fall into place begin to make sense or cohere. fall in with 1 meet by chance. 2 agree with; accede to; humour. 3 coincide with. fall off 1 (of demand etc.) decrease, deteriorate. 2 withdraw. fall-off n. a decrease, deterioration, withdrawal, etc. fall out 1 quarrel. 2 (of the hair, teeth, etc.) become detached. 3 Mil. come out of formation. 4 result; come to pass; occur. fall out of gradually discontinue (a habit etc.). fall over oneself colloq. 1 be eager or competitive. 2 be awkward, stumble through haste, confusion, etc. fall-pipe a downpipe. fall short 1 be or become deficient or inadequate. 2 (of a missile etc.) not reach its target. fall short of fail to reach or obtain. fall through fail; come to nothing; miscarry. fall to begin an activity, e.g. eating or working.
[ OE fallan, feallan f. Gmc ]