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

After failing in the House of Representatives last session, the act was reintroduced in February by Sen. Mark Pody and Rep. Jerry Sexton. Alexis Jones, Marie Claire, "Taylor Swift Donated More Than $100k to Fight These Disgusting Anti-LGBTQ Bills," 9 Apr. 2019 President Trump campaigned in 2016 on an infrastructure plan that has so far failed to materialize. Ken Thomas, WSJ, "Sen. Amy Klobuchar Proposes National Infrastructure Plan," 28 Mar. 2019 Opposition leader Bill Shorten joined the apology, saying Australia had failed tens of thousands of children, across generations. Trevor Marshallsea, Fox News, "PM formally apologizes to Australian child sex abuse victims," 22 Oct. 2018 But Chinese leaders were taken aback by President Trump’s failed meeting in Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the people said. Bob Davis, WSJ, "U.S.-China Trade Talks Hit a Bump," 8 Mar. 2019 View this post on Instagram Currently wrapped in a somewhat scabby old blanket, with a face mask on, clutching a lukewarm coffee while attempting and failing to get some decent writing done 🙂 Send help. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "The Item I Wear to Death: My ASOS Oversized Leather Jacket," 6 Mar. 2019 After 9/11, lot of Muslim activists, me included, failed in trying to humanize Muslims, but Serial was able to do that. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "How HBO's The Case Against Adnan Syed Picks Up Where Serial Left Off," 12 Feb. 2019 Leaders of the national Women's March have failed to address anti-Semitism within its ranks and Jewish women are hurt, disappointed, and fed up, says Molly Jong-Fast. Molly Jong-fast, Glamour, "We’ve Outgrown the Women’s March. Here’s What Happens Next.," 18 Jan. 2019 For more than 40 years this fabled property has fueled the imaginations of grandees only to foil their plans, as foreign royals, entertainment moguls, and billionaire entrepreneurs have all failed to break ground. Alex Bhattacharji, Town & Country, "An Empty Lot Above Beverly Hills Is the Most Expensive Real Estate in the World," 17 Jan. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Yet, without fail, a dinner party or a cocktail gathering will manage to work its way into our downtime, far more frequently than our friends with bigger, fancier digs. Steven Stolman, Town & Country, "How the Salonnière List of the Best Party Hosts in America Is Put Together," 21 Mar. 2019 The country was once a major hub for manufacturing, but much of it has moved east to Asia (aside from the leather industry—and, without fail, the leather jackets and dresses in the Madrid shows were faultless). Emily Farra, Vogue, "The Best Fashion in Madrid Isn’t Only on the Runway," 5 Feb. 2019 There is no fail-safe way for consumers to keep their numbers from being spoofed and even changing numbers won’t guarantee that the problem will go away, robocall prevention specialists say. Sarah Krouse, WSJ, "‘Stop Robocalling Me!’; ‘I Didn’t!’," 31 Dec. 2018 The second piece of the Fed’s pass-fail system also is fading. Ryan Tracy, WSJ, "Banks Failing Stress Tests? Not for Much Longer," 26 June 2018 Check out our favorite, no-fail jump-starts to feeling like your old self (i.e., back in your skinny jeans) ASAP. 1. Jaclyn London, Ms, Rd, Cdn, Good Housekeeping, "How to Lose Weight Faster, But Safely," 20 June 2018 This casual striped jumpsuit is your no-fail outfit for daytime activities. Marina Liao, Marie Claire, "Everlane Released 2 New Sandals for Summer—Here's How to Style Them," 6 June 2018 The great upset of the tournament was the massive fail on the app and website. Jon Wertheim, SI.com, "50 Parting Thoughts from the 2018 Australian Open," 28 Jan. 2018 Toyota said Friday the current recall addresses a situation not foreseen by the fix to the earlier issue, which also could have prevented the vehicle from entering fail-safe mode. Sean Mclain, WSJ, "Toyota Recalls More Than 2 Million Vehicles Over Hybrid-System Fault," 5 Oct. 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

13 Apr 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

Comments on fail

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