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

Also involved in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Miles Hall on Arlene Lane last Sunday were Sgt. Rick Hurd, The Mercury News, "Walnut Creek police identify five officers involved in fatal police shooting," 7 June 2019 On Wednesday, the Police Department released a 55-page investigation into the December 2015 fatal shooting of Mario Woods. Ashley Mcbride, SFChronicle.com, "SF public defender’s office demands SFPD release misconduct records," 6 June 2019 Officials blamed the fatal shooting, in part, on the site's congestion. Joshua Bowling, azcentral, "Solution for shooting on BLM land that killed pregnant woman: More shooting ranges," 6 June 2019 As Fort Worth police prepared to arrest the suspect in the fatal shooting of a 74-year-old manWednesday, the victim's son drove up and opened fire on the alleged killer — his cousin — police said. Dallas News, "As Fort Worth officers arrested murder suspect, victim's son opened fire on him, police say," 6 June 2019 The circumstances leading up to the fatal shooting were not immediately known. Deanese Williams-harris, chicagotribune.com, "Man found fatally wounded in Washington Park alley," 5 June 2019 Barnes was charged with possession of a firearm as a felon in connection with an August 2017 fatal shooting outside Duke's on Water, a bar on the corner of Juneau Avenue and Water Street. Sydney Czyzon, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Willie Barnes to walk free after sentencing hearing for Water Street shooting," 5 June 2019 Investigators are trying to find out who is responsible for the fatal shooting of a Miami Gardens man and his 7-year-old son. Doug Phillips, sun-sentinel.com, "Father and 7-year-old son shot dead in Miami-Gardens," 4 June 2019 Magallanes’ shooting happened less than two hours after a nearby fatal shooting, about two miles away, in Lakewood. Kieran Nicholson, The Denver Post, "Man shot dead Sunday morning in southwest Denver is identified, no arrest in case," 4 June 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

11 Jun 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

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