1

fail

verb \ ˈfāl \
Updated on: 15 Nov 2017

Definition of fail

intransitive verb
1 a :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
2 a :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
1 a :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
4 a :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.

failingly

play \ˈfā-liŋ-lē\ adverb

Examples of fail in a Sentence

  1. He failed in his first attempt but succeeded in his second attempt.

  2. His first company failed, but his second company succeeded.

  3. He felt that he had failed her when she needed him most.

  4. The government has failed the voters.

Recent Examples of fail from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of fail

Middle English failen, from Anglo-French faillir, from Vulgar Latin *fallire, alteration of Latin fallere to deceive, disappoint

fail Synonyms

Synonyms
break, break down, conk (out), crash, cut out, die, give out, stall
Antonyms
start (up)
Related Words
fizzle, sputter, wheeze; act up, malfunction; jam
Near Antonyms
cook, flourish, prosper, thrive; prevail, triumph, win

2

fail

noun

Definition of fail

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

Recent Examples of fail from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of fail

see 1fail



FAIL Defined for English Language Learners

fail

verb

Definition of fail for English Language Learners

  • : 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 Defined for Kids

1

fail

verb \ ˈfāl \

Definition of fail for Students

failed; failing
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 :1neglect 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.

2

fail

noun

Definition of fail for Students

:failure 2
  • We met daily without fail.

Medical Dictionary

fail

intransitive verb \ 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

Law Dictionary

fail

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 indefiniteness
  • Uniform 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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