\ 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.



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

Other Words from fail


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

Synonyms & Antonyms for fail

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Of course, devices fail for many reasons, but dead batteries are the death clock that’s built in. Geoffrey A. Fowler, Washington Post, 2 Aug. 2022 But the Kentucky senator’s gambit would ultimately fail. Josh Boak, ajc, 1 Aug. 2022 Many investors have suspected Mark Zuckerberg’s dream of the metaverse is doomed to fail, prompting Meta stock to more than halve over the past six months. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 1 Aug. 2022 Not only do these often fail to provide specific details to attract the right candidate, but they can also be quickly outdated. Thomas Derosa, Forbes, 25 July 2022 Arguments ensue — will Kim be able to accept what Usman’s family wants for their relationship, or is it doomed to fail? Wilson Chapman, Variety, 13 July 2022 But the governor and lawmakers could fail, and the Supreme Court’s ruling could stand. Erika D. Smithcolumnist, Los Angeles Times, 27 June 2022 But an unsuccessful series of rate hikes could fail to reduce prices while dramatically slowing the economy, experts said. Max Zahn, ABC News, 14 June 2022 Shorts and tank tops may never fail you in regards to being weather-friendly, but just like fall/winter fashion, summer style should evolve and your wardrobe should excite you even more for the summer festivities. Greg Emmanuel, Essence, 19 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun For years, Facebook’s sales grew without fail and kept on growing, defying the laws of gravity even as the company was battered by scandals over privacy and misinformation. New York Times, 27 July 2022 Business almost without fail underestimates the pace at which technology will progress. Hubertus Meinecke, Fortune, 18 July 2022 For her appearances in the Wimbledon Royal Box this year, the Duchess of Cambridge has leaned into her summer wardrobe fail-safes. Hayley Maitland, Vogue, 10 July 2022 When the power facilities and park's security fail, a ragtag group attempts to survive the island overrun by the prehistoric beasts. The Editors, Town & Country, 9 July 2022 Should Whitmer’s suit fail, women’s rights groups in the state are already looking for other places to send those seeking abortions, said Ashlea Phenicie, communications director for Planned Parenthood of Michigan. David Welch, Fortune, 25 June 2022 Even if an automotive component or system goes awry, clock signals must continue operating without fail. Markus Lutz, Forbes, 29 June 2022 There are over 31 million entrepreneurs in the U.S., according to Zippia, with a 20% fail rate within the first two years of operation. Cheryl Robinson, Forbes, 15 June 2022 Officials identified more than 12,500 instances across the system where grades were changed from a fail to a pass between 2016 and the end of the 2019-20 school year. Lillian Reed, Baltimore Sun, 9 June 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of fail


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


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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Time Traveler for fail

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near fail




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Statistics for fail

Last Updated

5 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Fail.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for fail


\ 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.



Kids Definition of fail (Entry 2 of 2)

: failure sense 2 We met daily without fail.


intransitive verb
\ 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


intransitive verb

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

More from Merriam-Webster on fail

Nglish: Translation of fail for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fail for Arabic Speakers


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