fail·​ure | \ ˈfāl-yər How to pronounce failure (audio) \

Definition of failure

1a : omission of occurrence or performance specifically : a failing to perform a duty or expected action failure to pay the rent on time
b(1) : a state of inability to perform a normal function kidney failure — compare heart failure
(2) : an abrupt cessation of normal functioning a power failure
c : a fracturing or giving way under stress structural failure
2a : lack of success
b : a failing in business : bankruptcy He was trying to rescue the company from failure.
3a : a falling short : deficiency a crop failure
4 : one that has failed He felt like a failure when he wasn't accepted into law school.

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Examples of failure in a Sentence

He became discouraged by his repeated failures in business. He was often crippled by his fear of failure. The accident was caused by engine failure. The patient was suffering from heart failure. The accident was caused by a failure to use proper procedures. She was criticized for failure to follow directions. The drought caused crop failure. He felt like a failure when he wasn't accepted into law school. The scheme was a complete failure.
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Recent Examples on the Web Unvaccinated people are still coming in with very progressive respiratory failure and the COVID-19 pneumonia that was so dangerous last year and continues to be. Alison Bowen,, 14 Sep. 2021 Police charged the man with failure to maintain physical control and having an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle. cleveland, 14 Sep. 2021 More serious side effects include thyroid abnormalities, kidney failure, acidosis, low blood pressure, and occasional deaths. Judy Stone, Forbes, 14 Sep. 2021 The first three seasons of Paul Pierce’s career in Boston were filled with personal success and team failure., 10 Sep. 2021 Those with more severe cases are also at a greater risk of developing complications, including lung abscess, shock, the spread of the infection to other areas of the body, including the bloodstream, respiratory failure, and death, Medline Plus says. Korin Miller,, 8 Sep. 2021 A few years ago, she was hospitalized with autoimmune liver failure for more than three months. Virginia Pelley, Marie Claire, 7 Sep. 2021 The only thing worse than the American foreign-policy establishment glossing over 20 years of failure and defeat to blame Joe Biden for the loss in Afghanistan is the myopia of the British and European establishments joining in. Tom Mctague, The Atlantic, 7 Sep. 2021 A few days after contracting the virus, the Port Orange resident became so ill that she was rushed to the hospital and was diagnosed with acute respiratory failure. Joelle Goldstein,, 7 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'failure.' 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 failure

1643, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for failure

alteration of earlier failer, from Anglo-French, from Old French faillir to fail

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Time Traveler for failure

Time Traveler

The first known use of failure was in 1643

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Dictionary Entries Near failure

fail to see/understand



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Statistics for failure

Last Updated

17 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Failure.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for failure



English Language Learners Definition of failure

: a lack of success in some effort
: a situation or occurrence in which something does not work as it should
: an occurrence in which someone does not do something that should be done


fail·​ure | \ ˈfāl-yər How to pronounce failure (audio) \

Kids Definition of failure

1 : a lack of success The experiment resulted in failure.
2 : the act of neglecting or forgetting to do or perform I was disappointed by his failure to keep a promise.
3 : an instance of not working properly power failure a failure of memory
4 : a loss of the ability to work normally heart failure
5 : someone or something that has not succeeded The new show was a failure.
6 : an instance of falling short crop failure


fail·​ure | \ ˈfā(ə)l-yər How to pronounce failure (audio) \

Medical Definition of failure

: a state of inability to perform a vital function acute renal failure respiratory failure — see heart failure

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Legal Definition of failure

1 : omission of occurrence or performance specifically : a failing to perform a duty or expected action a failure to mitigate damages failure to prosecute
2 : a lack of success or adequacy failure of a suit
3 : a failing in business

More from Merriam-Webster on failure

Nglish: Translation of failure for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of failure for Arabic Speakers


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