1 of 2


fail·​ing ˈfā-liŋ How to pronounce failing (audio)
: a usually slight or insignificant defect in character, conduct, or ability


2 of 2


: in absence or default of
failing specific instructions, use your own judgment
Choose the Right Synonym for failing

fault, failing, frailty, foible, vice mean an imperfection or weakness of character.

fault implies a failure, not necessarily culpable, to reach some standard of perfection in disposition, action, or habit.

a writer of many virtues and few faults

failing suggests a minor shortcoming in character.

being late is a failing of mine

frailty implies a general or chronic proneness to yield to temptation.

human frailties

foible applies to a harmless or endearing weakness or idiosyncrasy.

an eccentric's charming foibles

vice can be a general term for any imperfection or weakness, but it often suggests violation of a moral code or the giving of offense to the moral sensibilities of others.

compulsive gambling was his vice

Examples of failing in a Sentence

Noun He has some minor failings. we could talk about your failings, but it would take all night Preposition Failing progress in the peace process, war seems likely.
Recent Examples on the Web
Harris would have the advantage of running on the successes of the Biden administration — while, of course, trying to explain away its failings — without that whole gerontocracy thing weighing on her candidacy. Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 12 July 2024 Waters was intent on making Biden’s successes as president more evident and Trump’s failings plain. Robin Givhan, Washington Post, 9 July 2024 Harris has tried in recent days to both forcefully defend Biden’s record and his fitness while at the same time acknowledge his obvious failings in his debate against Donald Trump. Brian Bennett, TIME, 2 July 2024 Admit to your faults and failings, and resolve to do better. Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, 30 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for failing 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'failing.' 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


1590, in the meaning defined above


1810, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of failing was in 1590

Dictionary Entries Near failing

Cite this Entry

“Failing.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
fail·​ing ˈfā-liŋ How to pronounce failing (audio)


2 of 2 preposition
: in the absence or lack of
failing specific instructions, use your own judgment

More from Merriam-Webster on failing

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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