foi·​ble ˈfȯi-bəl How to pronounce foible (audio)
: the part of a sword or foil blade between the middle and point
: a minor flaw or shortcoming in character or behavior : weakness
admired their teacher despite his foibles
… talent is always balanced by foible.Janna Malamud Smith

Did you know?

Many word lovers agree that the pen is mightier than the sword. But be they honed in wit or form, even the sharpest tools in the shed have their flaws. That’s where foible comes in handy. Borrowed from French in the 1600s, the word originally referred to the weakest part of a fencing sword, that part being the portion between the middle and the pointed tip. The English foible soon came to be applied not only to weaknesses in blades but also to minor failings in character. The French source of foible is also at a remove from the fencing arena; the French foible means "weak," and it comes from the same Old French term, feble, that gave us feeble.

Choose the Right Synonym for foible

fault, failing, frailty, foible, vice mean an imperfection or weakness of character.

fault implies a failure, not necessarily culpable, to reach some standard of perfection in disposition, action, or habit.

a writer of many virtues and few faults

failing suggests a minor shortcoming in character.

being late is a failing of mine

frailty implies a general or chronic proneness to yield to temptation.

human frailties

foible applies to a harmless or endearing weakness or idiosyncrasy.

an eccentric's charming foibles

vice can be a general term for any imperfection or weakness, but it often suggests violation of a moral code or the giving of offense to the moral sensibilities of others.

compulsive gambling was his vice

Examples of foible in a Sentence

could tolerate my uncle's foibles because we loved him dearly
Recent Examples on the Web Her obvious affection for her characters is tempered in many instances by a recognition of their foibles: their vanity, their insecurities, their often petty competitiveness. Peter Marks, Washington Post, 4 Oct. 2023 Otherwise, this absorbing if uneven historical fantasy about Martin Luther King Jr.’s final night is at its best when rooted in reality — reveling in a saintly figure’s unguarded moments and uncomfortable foibles. Thomas Floyd, Washington Post, 17 Oct. 2023 The show has resisted adding guest judges each week, which could make things a little less susceptible to personal foibles, such as Hollywood’s frequent criticism of rose or matcha flavoring. James Hansen, Bon Appétit, 28 Sep. 2023 McKenzie has a professional actor’s nose for character, a sense of those few foibles of speech, physical habits, manners of self-presentation that make a person a guy. Jacob Bacharach, The New Republic, 18 Sep. 2023 All together, though, those individual foibles swamp the film’s most novel throughline, which is the remarkable coincidence that Thomas’ father and stepfather, both British navy pilots, died during their service only a few years apart. Matt Brennan, Los Angeles Times, 13 Sep. 2023 Jackson also shares some of the blame for the passing attack’s foibles, ranking 22nd in yards outside the numbers and 25th in completions to wide receivers over 20 yards since the start of his career. Brian Wacker, Baltimore Sun, 29 Aug. 2023 The characters are instantly recognizable, and the story remains frank with their foibles. Bonnie Johnson, Los Angeles Times, 4 Aug. 2023 Most of the reporting about the Supreme Court justices’ ethical foibles has revolved around its conservative members, namely Justice Clarence Thomas and, to a lesser degree, Justice Samuel Alito. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 26 July 2023 See More

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

Word History


obsolete French (now faible), from obsolete foible weak, from Old French feble feeble

First Known Use

circa 1648, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of foible was circa 1648


Dictionary Entries Near foible

Cite this Entry

“Foible.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


foi·​ble ˈfȯi-bəl How to pronounce foible (audio)
: a minor fault in personal character or behavior : weakness

More from Merriam-Webster on foible

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