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

Example Sentences

could tolerate my uncle's foibles because we loved him dearly
Recent Examples on the Web But even if human foibles contribute to technological errors, there is reason for public suspicion. Matt Bradley, NBC News, 16 May 2023 Now, hearing about the new restaurant’s foibles, Dudas sighed. Globe Staff,, 15 May 2023 By making Athena into an avatar of literary ruthlessness, Kuang transforms what could have been a character with foibles and compulsions into a universal, and thus somewhat boring, archetype: the writer who wrecks her relationships and transgresses every boundary for the sake of her work. Zoe Hu, Washington Post, 12 May 2023 That drew a horselaugh from veteran investor Jim Chanos, whose experience as a short-seller has given him a uniquely percipient feel for Wall Street foibles. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 12 Mar. 2023 Brown’s sympathy for the imperatives of the crown as an institution is balanced by her keen eye for the foibles of those who wear it. Sophia Nguyen, Washington Post, 2 May 2023 At 74, Charles is a familiar figure, one whose foibles have been dissected in the news media for decades and who still presides over a dysfunctional family. Mark Landler,, 1 May 2023 Their focus, however, is very much the foibles and malaise of the modern age. Pablo Sandoval, Variety, 21 Apr. 2023 The Kansas City Royals have experimented with a two-man outfield this season, and have been burned repeatedly, but one team’s foibles don’t move the industry averages. Tony Blengino, Forbes, 18 Apr. 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 3 Jun. 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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