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 Indeed, Mallinson has a couple of theories about the pronoun’s failure to take hold nationally or internationally. Lila Maclellan, Quartz, "The trends that may end the “y’all” vs “you guys” debate," 26 Nov. 2019 The Criminal Justice Commission will meet Monday to address Hardy’s failure to complete the reports. Nicholas Rondinone,, "Hartford State’s Attorney Gail Hardy was required to investigate the officers’ shootings; they returned to duty without answers," 25 Nov. 2019 But that study was criticized for its methodology — in particular for its failure to verify the cancer claims made by residents by examining medical records or through some other source. Gordon Russell, ProPublica, "Health Officials in “Cancer Alley” Will Study if Living Near a Controversial Chemical Plant Causes Cancer," 25 Nov. 2019 The city’s transportation agency declined to renew its license back in 2017, citing Uber’s approach to driver background checks and its failure to report criminal offenses involving drivers and passengers. Wired, "Uber May Be Banned From London, One of Its Biggest Markets," 25 Nov. 2019 The failure to make the 70-game bonus also does not change the Heat’s position against the NBA hard cap, because such bonuses are not calculated until season’s end, regardless of when they are eliminated as payments. Ira Winderman,, "NBA union appeals Heat 10-game suspension of Dion Waiters," 22 Nov. 2019 The European Space Agency is preparing to allocate a few million euros to ensure Vega doesn't have any repeats of its July launch failure, an agency official said November 20. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Rocket Report: Corruption abounds in Vostochny, China winning launch race," 22 Nov. 2019 Being the nightwatchman is a difficult and generally thankless job, one that tends to receive attention only for its failures. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "Rubio’s and Warren’s Immoral Attack on Capitalism," 19 Nov. 2019 The new strategy focused on transparency, with the company owning its failures and offering to pay victims' medical bills with no strings attached, Marler said. Anchorage Daily News, "As Boeing’s 737 MAX nears a return to service, will flyers return to it?," 17 Nov. 2019

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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Statistics for failure

Last Updated

30 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Failure.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 15 December 2019.

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More Definitions for failure


How to pronounce failure (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on failure

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for failure

Spanish Central: Translation of failure

Nglish: Translation of failure for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of failure for Arabic Speakers

Comments on failure

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