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

SpaceX is providing the launch for free after a static fire test failure of the Falcon 9 in September, 2016, which destroyed the Amos-6 satellite. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "SpaceX to launch a rare expendable mission on Tuesday evening," 6 Aug. 2019 Rather than acknowledge any failure in negotiating with North Korea, the Trump administration seems to have reduced its expectations. Los Angeles Times, "North Korea is a no-show at Asian summit, snubbing Trump administration again," 4 Aug. 2019 Barca's repeated failures in the Champions League, under his premiership are indicative of Valverde's occasional tactical naivety in big game situations., "Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid or Barcelona: Assessing Each of the La Liga Title Favourites," 3 Aug. 2019 Castellanos, the centerpiece of the Cubs’ trade-deadline activities, should help improve their season-long failure to hit lefties. Paul Sullivan,, "The Cubs made more moves at the trade deadline than their NL Central rivals. Now it’s time to win.," 31 July 2019 Preeclampsia affects black women at rates 60% higher than white women and if left untreated can lead to complications like stroke and kidney failure in the mom and premature birth or death for the baby. Leta Shy, SELF, "Allyson Felix Wants to Save Black Mothers," 30 July 2019 His failures on the football field may also inform how Booker deals with the frustrations of a listing White House bid. Wire Service, The Mercury News, "Cory Booker’s college football struggles echo in his presidential campaign," 30 July 2019 Entergy Texas has had several power outages in south Montgomery County since January, including dozens of outages in Shenandoah and numerous power failures in The Woodlands. Jeff Forward, Houston Chronicle, "Entergy construction project causing traffic delays in Woodlands," 29 July 2019 In the islands, missionary success in the Nicobars also contrasted with secular failure in the Andamans. Alex Perry, Outside Online, "The Last Days of John Allen Chau," 24 July 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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Statistics for failure

Last Updated

10 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for failure

The first known use of failure was in 1643

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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

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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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of or relating to the heavens

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