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 failure to love and falling for the alluring lies of false teachers. The Rev. Mike Taylor,, "Taylor: Even during this dark time, God has a plan for America | RELIGION COMMENTARY," 12 Sep. 2020 That felt like a failure to me, a protective cocoon from that sharp emotional pain. George Mccalman,, "Return to sender: I painted white people’s words to reflect their emotional apathy," 11 Sep. 2020 The dam’s failure, coming after more than two days of record rainfall, also drew new attention to the poor condition of dams, not just in Michigan but across the county. Richard Mertens, The Christian Science Monitor, "One solution to America’s dam-safety problem: Remove them," 8 Sep. 2020 The virus has been linked to numerous problems not typically seen with the flu, including blood clots, strokes, organ failure, heart problems and a rare inflammatory syndrome in children. Anne Saker, The Enquirer, "COVID-19 Q&A: Fake test results? Big hospital payouts? We got answers to coronavirus questions," 4 Sep. 2020 And yet the Mall in Washington is commonly regarded as America’s noblest civic space, while the plaza in Albany is seen as a monstrous failure, vicious in its inhospitality. Michael J. Lewis, National Review, "The Death of Public Beauty," 3 Sep. 2020 Its failure to set up an independent inquiry into the artiste’s killing further fuelled suspicion. Mulugeta G Berhe (phd), Quartz Africa, "Ethiopia’s escalating regional political crisis has roots in its federal system," 3 Sep. 2020 But the industry’s failure to create more disabled characters — and to cast actors with disabilities in those roles — has received much less attention. Gerry Smith,, "Hollywood’s Diversity Push Has Left Out One Important Group," 28 Aug. 2020 That’s because a major shipping channel is filled with exactly the wrong dominos to trigger a cascade failure, from debris to volatile petrochemical ships, all the way to the population centers. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Why a Houston-Area Hurricane Could Be 'America's Chernobyl'," 26 Aug. 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

16 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Failure.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2020.

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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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