fail

verb
\ ˈfāl \
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 \ 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

Guests became frustrated when the hotel’s robots failed to keep pace with Siri or Alexa. Takashi Mochizuki, WSJ, "Robot Hotel Loses Love for Robots," 14 Jan. 2019 Critics often point to Victoria's seemingly all-consuming affection for Albert and her laments that their children failed to console her in his absence. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "What Was Queen Victoria Like as a Mother?," 13 Jan. 2019 Iconic American retailers Sears and Kmart may officially close their doors for good after a potential takeover bid for parent company Sears Holdings reportedly failed today, Reuters revealed. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "Sears and Kmart Stores May Liquidate After Latest Bankruptcy News," 8 Jan. 2019 Angelina Jolie’s style never fails to maintain a certain quiet elegance: the actress often favors a muted color palette, leaning toward black or whites and creams. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "Angelina Jolie Makes the Case for All-Over Neutrals," 6 Jan. 2019 If the statistics around how diets fail weren't convincing enough, think of the cost of dieting to our emotional, physical, social, and financial health. Abby Langer, SELF, "How to Rid Yourself of the Diet Mentality and Stop Dieting Once and For All," 6 Jan. 2019 Ultimately, SpaceX defended its rocket and an investigation revealed the true cause of the accident: the payload adapter, which connects the satellite to the rocket, failed to deploy the spacecraft into orbit. Loren Grush, The Verge, "The Verge 2018 tech report card: SpaceX," 29 Dec. 2018 At speaking engagements for her book, the question of how to make those friends never fails to arise. Maggie Bullock, Marie Claire, "Where Did All My Girlfriends Go?," 10 Dec. 2018 Put Down the Hot Dog—and the Cell Phone The biggest National Anthem etiquette no-nos involve failing to give it your full attention. Jill Gleeson, Country Living, "National Anthem Etiquette: How to Properly Honor 'The Star-Spangled Banner'," 5 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

So that was the biggest fail of the entire experience. Nora Deligter, Vogue, "On the Registry: Becca and Christine McCharen-Tran Requested Everything Outdoorsy," 30 May 2018 It can be failed and retaken multiple times in the same day, though after the third fail, the test taker will have to pay the $30 fee again. Robert Duffer, chicagotribune.com, "Taking the test: Written driver's exam instills fear in autos editor," 25 July 2017 Toyota said then that certain parts of the control system could be damaged by heat, causing the hybrid system to reset without entering the fail-safe mode. Sean Mclain, WSJ, "Toyota Recalls More Than 2 Million Vehicles Over Hybrid-System Fault," 5 Oct. 2018 Also: Why is flooding the valley a fail-safe, as Charlotte put it? William Lee, chicagotribune.com, "‘Westworld’ Episode 10 recap: 5 things to know about ‘The Passenger’ and Season 2's finale," 24 June 2018 The Republican Party had a fail-safe option, but was unwilling or unable to maneuver El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells into the primary election runner-up position on Tuesday that would have put him on the fall ballot with Hunter. Michael Smolens, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Republicans working without a net in Rep. Hunter's district," 7 June 2018 Mexico has sometimes been a World Cup underachiever, often had more talent than tenacity, and regularly saw its nerve fail when the opportunity for greatness presented. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "Is Mexico the real deal? Upset of Germany could be the start of a deep World Cup run," 17 June 2018 Ovechkin, to his credit, took his fail well and threw a second pitch right into Scherzer's glove. Nihal Kolur, SI.com, "Watch: Alex Ovechkin, Capitals Throw Out First Pitch at Nationals Game," 9 June 2018 One teacher explained that without fail, Magformers are always the most popular toy in their classroom. Lindsey Murray, Good Housekeeping, "Those Super-Expensive Magformers Are 50% Off on Amazon Right Now," 9 Aug. 2018

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

19 Jan 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 \
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 \

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

Comments on fail

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