fail

verb
\ ˈfāl How to pronounce fail (audio) \
failed; failing; fails

Definition of fail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to lose strength : weaken her health was failing
b : to fade or die away until our family line fails
c : to stop functioning normally the patient's heart failed
2a : to fall short failed in his duty
b : to be or become absent or inadequate the water supply failed
c : to be unsuccessful the marriage failed specifically : to be unsuccessful in achieving a passing grade took the exam and failed
d : to become bankrupt or insolvent banks were failing

transitive verb

1a : to disappoint the expectations or trust of her friends failed her
b : to miss performing an expected service or function for his wit failed him
2 : to be deficient in : lack never failed an invincible courage— Douglas MacArthur
3 : to leave undone : neglect fail to lock the door
4a : to be unsuccessful in passing failed chemistry
b : to grade (someone, such as a student) as not passing The teacher failed only his two worst students.

fail

noun

Definition of fail (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : failure usually used in the phrase without fail Every day, without fail, he has toast and coffee for breakfast.
2 : a failure (as by a security dealer) to deliver or receive securities within a prescribed period after purchase or sale

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Other Words from fail

Verb

failingly \ ˈfā-​liŋ-​lē How to pronounce failingly (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for fail

Synonyms: Verb

break, break down, conk (out), crash, cut out, die, give out, stall

Antonyms: Verb

start (up)

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Examples of fail in a Sentence

Verb

He failed in his first attempt but succeeded in his second attempt. His first company failed, but his second company succeeded. He felt that he had failed her when she needed him most. The government has failed the voters.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail, faulted the clerk for failing to provide a capias. Rafael Olmeda, sun-sentinel.com, "Accused killer roams free as county tries to stop accidental jail releases," 19 June 2019 Ballard will only pay a fine for failing to wear a seat belt. Andrew Wolfson, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville police traffic search collapses after judge says the driver was coerced," 19 June 2019 Other lawmakers blamed the Legislature for failing to prioritize capital requests from corrections, even in the most recent state budget. Kyra Haas, azcentral, "Broken locks at Arizona prison won't be fixed until late 2020, corrections director says," 18 June 2019 Employees at six Beaumont Affiliated Health and Rehabilitation Centers are receiving back pay after a federal agency found the facilities in violation of federal law for failing to pay for meal breaks. Detroit Free Press Staff, Detroit Free Press, "6 Beaumont-affiliated rehab centers ordered to pay back wages to 1,389 employees," 18 June 2019 The organizations are also suing David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, for failing to carry out his duties under the Federal Records Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. Vera Bergengruen, Time, "Watchdogs Sue Trump Administration Over Missing Notes From Putin Meeting," 18 June 2019 But the president has faulted the governments in these countries — as well as Mexico — for failing to curb a months-long unprecedented surge of Central American migrant families and unaccompanied children heading towards the U.S.-Mexico border. Camilo Montoya-galvez, CBS News, "U.S. cuts millions in aid to Central America, fulfilling Trump's vow," 17 June 2019 She is also cited for failing to prescreen the 5th grade student poll, with trophies given at an end-of-school ceremony at the Merrillville Golden Corral on May 23, according to documents obtained in a public records request. Meredith Colias-pete, Post-Tribune, "Documents: Gary principal to be fired over confrontation with mother, failure to prescreen 'annoying award' for autistic boy," 15 June 2019 Knezovich said the three sergeants remain under investigation for failing to initiate an investigation. Chad Sokol, The Seattle Times, "Spokane County sheriff’s sergeant fired for racial slur, sexual harassment, talk of killing black people," 14 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Even some skeptics within the company said Farley gets the job done without fail. Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press, "A man who can build a car by hand leads Ford into future; 'He’s just never afraid'," 19 June 2019 And last November, the astronomer Jason Hessels (with Spitler and others) noticed something else strange: Each split-second burst actually contains a few sub-bursts that, without fail, shift downward from higher to lower radio frequencies. Quanta Magazine, "With a Second Repeating Radio Burst, Astronomers Close In on an Explanation," 28 Feb. 2019 In 2010, after experiencing a fail at an audition with Big Deal Records, RM was invited to audition for another label, where he was actually offered a deal. Jasmine Gomez, Seventeen, "BTS Member RM Has A Net Worth That's Out Of This World," 23 May 2019 The directions were simple enough but on the third round there was a pretty big epic fail, and Kacey called it out both IRL and on social media. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Best Stage Moments From Coachella 2019," 14 Apr. 2019 Does anyone want to watch a wide-eyed 20-something-year-old fail at the job search for more than roughly two minutes? refinery29.com, "Sweetbitter Review: Restaurant Dramedy Is New York Fantasy For The Modern Day," 1 May 2018 Without fail, Chris posts a sweet throwback photo on Dante’s birthday each year of the two together. Selena Barrientos, Good Housekeeping, "Every Question You Have About 'Happy!' Star Christopher Meloni’s Wife and Two Kids, Answered," 27 Mar. 2019 Thank you for having us ✨✨✨✨ The replies were surprisingly tame, considering how savage everyone was back in February when Khloé gave herself two extra thumbs in yet another Photoshop fail. Nicole Saunders, Harper's BAZAAR, "Khloé Kardashian Had a Major Photoshop Fail That Gave Her 14 Fingers," 9 Apr. 2019 After the plane had an engine fail, the pilots diverted to an Air Force base on the remote Alaskan Island of Shemya. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "8 Emergency Landings That Rival the 'Miracle on the Hudson'," 15 Jan. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fail.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of fail

Verb

13th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for fail

Verb and Noun

Middle English failen, from Anglo-French faillir, from Vulgar Latin *fallire, alteration of Latin fallere to deceive, disappoint

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Statistics for fail

Last Updated

22 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for fail

The first known use of fail was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for fail

fail

verb

English Language Learners Definition of fail

: to not succeed : to end without success
: to not succeed as a business : to become bankrupt
: to not do (something that you should do or are expected to do)

fail

verb
\ ˈfāl How to pronounce fail (audio) \
failed; failing

Kids Definition of fail

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to be unsuccessful He failed the test.
2 : to grade as not passing My teacher failed me.
3 : to stop functioning The engine failed.
4 : to be or become absent or not enough The water supply failed.
5 : to become bankrupt The business failed.
6 : neglect entry 1 sense 2 Don't fail to ask if you need my help.
7 : disappoint, desert I need your help. Please don't fail me.
8 : to lose strength : weaken She's failing in health.
9 : to fall short One drink failed to satisfy my thirst.
10 : to die away The family line failed.

fail

noun

Kids Definition of fail (Entry 2 of 2)

: failure sense 2 We met daily without fail.
\ ˈfā(ə)l How to pronounce fail (audio) \

Medical Definition of fail

1 : to weaken or lose strength her health was failing
2 : to stop functioning normally the patient's heart failed

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Legal Definition of fail

1 : to be or become inadequate or unsuccessful especially in fulfilling certain formal requirements even if one or more terms are left open, a contract for sale does not fail for indefinitenessUniform Commercial Code
2 : to become bankrupt or insolvent

transitive verb

: to leave undone or neglect to do fail to appear in court fail to read a contract

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More from Merriam-Webster on fail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with fail

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for fail

Spanish Central: Translation of fail

Nglish: Translation of fail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fail for Arabic Speakers

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