false negative


plural false negatives
: a person or test result that is incorrectly classified as negative (as for the presence of a health condition) because of imperfect testing methods or procedures
A false negative, in medical lingo, is a screening test that says "no cancer" when all the while a cancer is, in fact, growing undetected.Robin Marantz Henig
often hyphenated when used before another noun
a false-negative rate of 5%
… only 4 of 31 tears found on arthroscopic evaluation were missed prospectively by MRI, and two of these false-negative results were found retrospectively to be due to observer error rather than failure of the MRI system to image the tear.Peter D. Franklin et al.
compare false positive

Examples of false negative in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The story detailed how false positives, false negatives and indeterminate results can have painful consequences for expecting parents. Anna Clark, ProPublica, 30 Apr. 2024 Those numbers suggest that roughly 1 in 5 results would be false negatives and roughly 1 in 5 would be false positives. Berkeley Lovelace Jr., NBC News, 4 Apr. 2024 In other disciplines, such as medicine, avoiding false negatives is more important. Simon Makin, Scientific American, 1 Feb. 2024 Remember, too, that false negatives are possible on at-home tests. Jamie Ducharme, TIME, 9 Jan. 2024 And Negatives: Automated systems may generate false positives or false negatives when identifying misconfigurations. Ran Nahmias, Forbes, 14 Feb. 2024 But the test could have some limitations—in previous experiments, only some individuals of a species have passed, which could mean the test has a high rate of false negatives, according to the new study. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 27 Oct. 2023 Those are the various false positives and false negatives that would be part of the risk model. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 29 Feb. 2024 False positive results are rare, says Dr. Dweck, but false negative results can definitely occur. Sarah Bradley, Parents, 2 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'false negative.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1916, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of false negative was in 1916

Dictionary Entries Near false negative

Cite this Entry

“False negative.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/false%20negative. Accessed 20 May. 2024.

Medical Definition

false negative

: a person or test result that is incorrectly classified as negative (as for the presence of a health condition) because of imperfect testing methods or procedures
"The addition of the lateral chest radiograph to the frontal view did not improve the diagnostic accuracy of pediatric emergency physicians," he [Dr. Lynch] concluded, "and it may also increase the percentage of false negatives."Terry Murray, Medical Post
Previous studies of sentinel nodes have revealed some false negatives (i.e., women with a normal sentinel node who nonetheless had other axillary node metastases revealed on total dissection).Bill Zepf, American Family Physician
… testing for heterophile antibodies was negative, but false negative results are well recognized.Lindley A. Barbee et al., The New England Journal of Medicine
often hyphenated when used before another noun
false-negative results
… any false-negative smears would again underestimate the prevalence of abnormal test results.Jeanne Mandelblatt et al., The Journal of the American Medical Association
compare false positive
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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