dys·​func·​tion·​al (ˌ)dis-ˈfəŋ(k)-shnəl How to pronounce dysfunctional (audio)
: characterized by or exhibiting dysfunction: such as
: 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
: 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.

Examples of dysfunctional in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Her storied relationship with Buss fits Winning Time's brand of dysfunctional drama perfectly. Keith Nelson, Men's Health, 15 Aug. 2023 Like coming to the table at a slightly dysfunctional reunion, Markowicz has pulled from prior projects to curate the perfect, familiar, ensemble cast. Holly Jones, Variety, 6 Sep. 2023 While Cruz, Joe and the SEALs had their butts on the line in the finale, Meade stayed on board to deal with a dysfunctional DC situation room that was more Jerry Springer than Tom Clancy. Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY, 3 Sep. 2023 Backyard Renaissance Theatre presents Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a dysfunctional family’s problems coming home to roost when the father goes on a walk and never returns. The San Diego Union-Tribune Staff, San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 Aug. 2023 All forms of anxiety—from the mild to the pathological—can be understood as a dysfunctional relationship with certainty. Julia Digangi, Fortune Well, 29 Aug. 2023 The United States and the rest of the world have seen the devastation and tragedy of dysfunctional migration systems. Andrew Selee, Foreign Affairs, 9 Aug. 2023 Litigation is the next step, and is not uncommon if the board is dysfunctional or if there is no money for repairs, Ms. Nadel said. Jill Terreri Ramos, New York Times, 22 July 2023 Willis ran to unseat him, criticizing his office as dysfunctional and corrupt. Alexandra Hutzler, ABC News, 12 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'dysfunctional.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


dysfunction + -al entry 1, after functional

First Known Use

1915, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of dysfunctional was in 1915

Dictionary Entries Near dysfunctional




Cite this Entry

“Dysfunctional.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dysfunctional. Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

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