Betray x Cheat on

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Hello everyone,

I learned that "cheat on" is a common phrasal verb used to say that "someone is unfaithful to their romantic/sexual partner". My question: Can I use "betray" in this same context in everyday conversation or is it too formal/general?

An example that I created:

Mary left John after she found out he betrayed her.

Thank you in advance!
  • 'betray' covers cheating/unfaithfulness. But it emphasizes breach of trust; serious breaking the bond of loyalty.**

    A man cheated on his girlfriend by having a brief affair on a boat he was traveling on.
    A man betrayed his fiance, a month before the wedding, by disappearing and asking another woman to marry him.

    **ADDED: As Paul and Myridon have said below, issues other than sexual may be involved, i.e. removing her savings from her account to which she gave him access (because they lived together) in order to 'play the horses' at the racetrack.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    English - England
    Can I use "betray"
    Not really - it's a bit too melodramatic.

    WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2018
    mel•o•dra•mat•ic (mel′ə drə matik), adj.
    1. Show Business of, like, or befitting melodrama.
    2. exaggerated and emotional or sentimental;
      sensational or sensationalized; overdramatic.


    Senior Member
    English - US
    Betrayal also covers stealing from her, telling someone her secrets, etc. With no other context, we don't know what John did to Mary as an act of betrayal.
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