fa·​tal | \ ˈfā-tᵊl How to pronounce fatal (audio) \

Definition of fatal

1a : causing death a fatal crash a fatal disease a fatal wound
b : bringing ruin a fatal attraction to gambling
c : causing failure a fatal design flaw Lack of sufficient support was fatal to his campaign.
2a : determining one's fate the fatal flaw in this dazzling woman: a total lack of taste— Marya Mannes
b : of or relating to fate … this science sets a fatal necessity on things …— H. O. Taylor
c : resembling fate in proceeding according to a fixed sequence
3 : fateful a fatal hour
4 obsolete : fated

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Choose the Right Synonym for fatal

deadly, mortal, fatal, lethal mean causing or capable of causing death. deadly applies to an established or very likely cause of death. a deadly disease mortal implies that death has occurred or is inevitable. a mortal wound fatal stresses the inevitability of what has in fact resulted in death or destruction. fatal consequences lethal applies to something that is bound to cause death or exists for the destruction of life. lethal gas

Examples of fatal in a Sentence

a disease that is often fatal a chemical that can be fatal to birds She made a fatal mistake.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The Source, the fatal shooting of bootleg-CD seller Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police, the Grammys’ fraught relationship with rap, and even the final days of Leonard Cohen. Joshua James Amberson, The Seattle Times, "Hanif Abdurraqib’s ‘Go Ahead in the Rain’ is a biography of A Tribe Called Quest. It’s also much more.," 12 Apr. 2019 The fatal crash of Air France Flight 4950 in the year 2000 also hastened the aircraft's end. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "The Concorde's Iconic 'Droop Nose' Is Being Fully Restored," 8 Feb. 2019 As with many who knew the Harts, Shonda Jones—the attorney who represented Celestine in court—takes issue with the disconnect between the facts that emerged after the fatal March crash and the fiction Jen Hart presented on Facebook. Glamour, "Broken Harts, Episode 6: "Beautiful Black Boys"," 15 Jan. 2019 Federal investigators determined the fatal crash could have been avoided had the vehicle’s automatic emergency brakes been enabled. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "The Verge 2018 tech report card: Uber," 29 Dec. 2018 Deputy Sheriff David Lee'Sean Manning Deputy Sheriff David Manning of Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office in North Carolina was involved in a fatal car crash on March 11. Madeline Farber, Fox News, "Officers killed in the line of duty in 2018," 19 Sep. 2018 After two fatal police shootings of black men and a subsequent sniper attack on police in Mr. Ryan’s initial days at the helm, the Boston native responded by asking staff to gather for a series of conversations about race across the firm’s offices. Vanessa Fuhrmans, WSJ, "This Boss Is Making Race Relations a Business Matter," 13 Mar. 2019 Waiting until late 2019 risks potentially fatal inference from the U.S. presidential campaigns. Vivian Salama, WSJ, "New Nafta Is Threatened by Partisan Split Over Enforcement," 13 Feb. 2019 Multiple near-fatal heart attacks had gnarled his hands, creased his craggy face with wrinkles and yellowed his eyes. Jason Zweig, WSJ, "What Drove Jack Bogle to Upend Investing," 18 Jan. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fatal.' 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 fatal

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

History and Etymology for fatal

Middle English, from Latin fatalis, from fatum fate

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Learn More about fatal

Dictionary Entries near fatal

fast worker


fat acid




fatality rate

Statistics for fatal

Last Updated

14 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for fatal

The first known use of fatal was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for fatal



English Language Learners Definition of fatal

: causing death
: causing ruin or failure


fa·​tal | \ ˈfā-tᵊl How to pronounce fatal (audio) \

Kids Definition of fatal

1 : causing death : mortal fatal injuries
2 : causing ruin or failure a fatal mistake

Other Words from fatal

fatally adverb


fa·​tal | \ ˈfāt-ᵊl How to pronounce fatal (audio) \

Medical Definition of fatal

: causing death a fatal diabetic coma— Havelock Ellis

Other Words from fatal

fatally \ ˈfāt-​ᵊl-​ē How to pronounce fatally (audio) \ adverb

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Legal Definition of fatal

1 : causing failure of a legal claim or cause of action a fatal defect in the proceedings— W. R. LaFave and J. H. Israel
2 : making something (as a contract) invalid or unenforceable there is a fatal indefiniteness with the result that the agreement is void— J. D. Calamari and J. M. Perillo

Other Words from fatal

fatally adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on fatal

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with fatal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for fatal

Spanish Central: Translation of fatal

Nglish: Translation of fatal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fatal for Arabic Speakers

Comments on fatal

What made you want to look up fatal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something valued as if it were money

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