dys·​func·​tion·​al | \ (ˌ)dis-ˈfəŋ(k)-shnəl How to pronounce dysfunctional (audio) , -shə-nᵊl \

Definition of dysfunctional

: characterized by or exhibiting dysfunction: such as
a : not functioning properly : marked by impaired or abnormal functioning With 180,000 employees and a $43 billion budget, the department is a collage of 22 distinct government agencies drawn from different corners of the federal organization chart and glued together into a single, largely dysfunctional unit.— Paul C. Light This form of anemia develops because the bone marrow is not producing new cells rapidly enough to replace old cells that have become destroyed or otherwise dysfunctional.— Tom Ewing This led to a dysfunctional credit market that in important respects soon turned non-functional.— Warren E. Buffett
b : characterized by abnormal or unhealthy interpersonal behavior or interaction dysfunctional relationships As with any dysfunctional family, it may take an outsider to get a clear picture of the situation.— Chris Mooney

Did You Know?

Dysfunctional and dysfunction have been used for almost a hundred years, often in medical writing ("brain dysfunction", "a dysfunctional liver") but also by social scientists ("a dysfunctional city council", "diplomatic dysfunction"). But they only really entered the general vocabulary in the 1980s, when therapists and talk-show hosts began talking about dysfunctional families. The signs of family dysfunction turned out to be numerous, and it soon began to seem as if pretty much all our families could be called dysfunctional.

First Known Use of dysfunctional

1915, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for dysfunctional

dysfunction + -al entry 1, after functional

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The first known use of dysfunctional was in 1915

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Cite this Entry

“Dysfunctional.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dysfunctional. Accessed 30 May. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on dysfunctional

Nglish: Translation of dysfunctional for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dysfunctional for Arabic Speakers

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