1 of 2


: incorporating some feature for automatically counteracting the effect of an anticipated possible source of failure
: being or relating to a safeguard that prevents continuing on a bombing mission according to a preconceived plan
: having no chance of failure : infallibly problem-free
the little black dress … has consistently been the fail-safe solution for nightVogue


2 of 2


: a device or measure that makes something fail-safe

Examples of fail-safe in a Sentence

Adjective flowers have been traditionally regarded as the fail-safe gift for Valentine's Day Noun there are so many fail-safes built into the system that a highly unlikely series of mistakes would have to be made before failure could occur
Recent Examples on the Web
Reebok Women’s Court Advance Sneakers Worn by everyone from Jennifer Lawrence to our grandmothers, Reeboks are a fail-safe summer shoe choice. Laura Gurfein, Peoplemag, 3 June 2024 What explains the failure of the large array of fail-safe buffers that were supposed to counter developing crises? Alan Greenspan, Foreign Affairs, 15 Oct. 2013 Be aware that the owner might have put the cameras on a second network, or they could be wired or record-only types, so this is not a fail-safe option. Kim Komando, USA TODAY, 9 May 2024 If a fail-safe method of silencing speech is summoning a mob, or even merely threatening to summon a mob, then expect to see more mobs. David French, The Mercury News, 18 Apr. 2024 The wreck led to a raft of safety improvements, among them, it is believed, the dead man’s switch, a fail-safe now found in all kinds of modern machinery. Joel Khalili, WIRED, 10 Apr. 2024 Her fail-safe office-appropriate neutrals are being replaced with diaphanous Oscar de La Renta shirtdresses and Goyard handbags. Daniel Rodgers, Glamour, 3 Apr. 2024 For older decks with uncapped composite boards, Trex doesn’t have any fail-safe suggestions. Jeanne Huber, Washington Post, 22 Mar. 2024 Luckily, Versace and Omega is a pretty fail-safe combination. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 14 Mar. 2024
The idea was to make bank oversight both stricter and more fail-safe. Jeanna Smialek, New York Times, 21 Mar. 2023 Shop Now 10 Navy Blue In areas with strict historic guidelines, navy blue is often a fail-safe. Elle Decor Editors, ELLE Decor, 17 Mar. 2023 Follow these Dallas pros’ fail-safe do’s and don’ts for getting the job hung. Ryan Conner, Dallas News, 15 Mar. 2023 But for anyone who’s been lulled into a sense of complacency by digitization, The Living Record makes clear that digital is no fail-safe solution. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, 4 Mar. 2023

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

Word History

First Known Use


1931, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1975, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of fail-safe was in 1931

Dictionary Entries Near fail-safe

Cite this Entry

“Fail-safe.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jun. 2024.

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