mal·func·tion | \ˌmal-ˈfəŋ(k)-shən \
malfunctioned; malfunctioning; malfunctions

Definition of malfunction 

(Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to function imperfectly or badly : fail to operate normally


plural malfunctions

Definition of malfunction (Entry 2 of 2)

: a failure to operate or function in the normal or correct manner : the action or an instance of malfunctioning a hardware/equipment malfunction Once thought to be a disease itself dropsy is now known to be a sign of several kinds of body malfunction, especially congestive heart failure and kidney disease.— C. Clairborne Ray In schizophrenia this filtering system malfunctions or short-circuits. This malfunction causes people to misevaluate what they see, hear, and experience in their environment.— Richard Crino

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Did You Know?

A malfunctioning switch might keep us from turning on a light. A malfunctioning heart valve might require replacement with an artificial valve, and if your immune system malfunctions it may start to attack healthy cells. And a malfunction in a voting machine could result in hundreds of votes being miscounted.

Examples of malfunction in a Sentence


A software problem is causing the system to malfunction.

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

More than 220 people died in 2009 when an Air France plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean after the autopilot malfunctioned and crew error caused the plane to stall. Bree Burkitt, azcentral, "Self-driving Uber fatal crash: Experts say prosecution would be precedent setting," 22 June 2018 The proceedings slowed only when a headset malfunctioned or a public defender provided brief counsel. Alicia A. Caldwell, WSJ, "Mass Hearings, Uncertain Futures for Migrants Separated From Their Children," 10 June 2018 By then, perhaps, her landlord will have repaired the hot-water heater that has been malfunctioning all winter. Courtney Astolfi,, "Gunshots in the night and landlord issues mean Yvonne Lake will be moving again: A Greater Cleveland," 26 Mar. 2018 Then, on June 27 and 28, trips on the M/V Island Home were canceled after an emergency generator first failed to activate during a routine test and then malfunctioned again the next day, the agency said. Jeremy C. Fox,, "Steamship Authority cancels ferry trips on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket routes," 10 July 2018 And when the techs conclude that Kohana is malfunctioning and relegate her to cold storage, Akecheta has absolutely no idea that the dark, sterile labs under Westworld even exist. Scott Meslow, GQ, "Westworld Season 2 Episode 8 Recap: Take My Heart When You Go," 11 June 2018 But less than a year later, the freezer storing his sperm malfunctioned, rendering the sperm no longer viable. Kate Snow, NBC News, "University Hospitals fertility clinic failure affects more patients than thought," 27 Mar. 2018 Twelve years ago, thousands of Angelenos lost power in the city as hundreds of transformers malfunctioned or stopped working. Javier Panzar,, "Hundreds of customers are still without power as hot and angry Angelenos fume at the DWP," 10 July 2018 The cardiac patch is fully functional human tissue with diverse cell types, and it can actually be implanted into the body to repair a patient’s malfunctioning heart. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "This Patch of 3D-Printed Flesh Is a Step Toward a Full 3D-Printed Heart," 3 July 2018

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


1941, in the meaning defined above


1892, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for malfunction

Last Updated

12 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for malfunction

The first known use of malfunction was in 1892

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More Definitions for malfunction


intransitive verb
mal·func·tion | \(ˈ)mal-ˈfəŋ(k)-shən \

Medical Definition of malfunction 

: to function imperfectly or badly : fail to operate in the normal or usual manner malfunctioning kidneys

Other Words from malfunction

malfunction noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on malfunction

Spanish Central: Translation of malfunction

Nglish: Translation of malfunction for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of malfunction for Arabic Speakers

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