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 The driver, it was learned, was wanted on a Lake County Sheriff’s Office warrant for failure to appear in court on a traffic charge. cleveland, "Tools stolen from nursing home construction site: Lyndhurst Police Blotter," 5 Jan. 2021 The landscape provides for plenty of opportunities, but that also means there are also plenty of more opportunities for failure. Dylan Hernández Columnist, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Young boxer Ryan Garcia earns thrilling victory, but he has work remaining," 3 Jan. 2021 The driver was arrested and booked for failure to stop and render aid and driving while intoxicated, police said. Andres Picon,, "Fatal shootings, crash mark New Year’s Eve in San Antonio," 1 Jan. 2021 The government has already seen confidence in its COVID strategy sink, with even King Carl XVI Gustaf delivering a rare rebuke for Sweden’s failure to contain the death toll., "UK authorizes COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford and AstraZeneca," 30 Dec. 2020 The restaurant also received two $500 fines for failure to comply and interfering with a health inspector, according to CBS Los Angeles. Emma Colton, Washington Examiner, "California restaurant owner blocks health inspector's car in protest of lockdown rules: 'I’m desperate'," 28 Dec. 2020 Contamination was the only plausible explanation for the test kit’s failure. Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, "The Plague Year," 28 Dec. 2020 An estimated 30 million to 40 million Americans are at risk of being evicted from their homes for failure to make their rent, according to a report from the Aspen Institute. Dom Difurio, Dallas News, "What do extended eviction protections mean for Dallas renters and when will rental aid be available?," 28 Dec. 2020 But there’s little accountability for failure in government. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Biden’s Climate All Stars," 27 Dec. 2020

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

20 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Failure.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

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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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Comments on failure

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