mal·​func·​tion | \ ˌmal-ˈfəŋ(k)-shən How to pronounce malfunction (audio) \
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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Police weren’t alerted to the scene because the security camera system broke after its modem malfunctioned in the intense heat. Ruth Bruno,, "Hartford Mayor Announces Plan For Policies To Maintain Security Cameras After 16-Year-Old Boy Drowns In Keney Park Pool," 6 July 2018 Embedded underneath the spacecraft are four engines that can ignite and propel the Starliner far away from a malfunctioning rocket. Loren Grush, The Verge, "Boeing delays first crucial test flights of its new passenger spacecraft again," 1 Aug. 2018 In court Thursday, his attorneys asserted that the St. Louis prosecutors' office had engaged in misconduct and potentially perjury by initially saying that a video recorder had malfunctioned during a March interview of the woman. David A. Lieb And Summer Ballentine,, "Missouri Gov. Greitens facing more calls to resign; his attorneys allege prosecutorial misconduct," 12 Apr. 2018 Just inside the entrance to the set were Rayder’s and Stella Tennant’s racks, close to one of the snowblowers, which malfunctioned and covered the women. Laird Borrelli-persson, Vogue, "Remembering Alexander McQueen’s Wintry Fall 1999 Overlook Show With Model Frankie Rayder," 24 Dec. 2018 Oh, just the Nielsen ratings system malfunctioning after Lohan Beach Club racks up all the views. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "The First Look at Lindsay Lohan's New Reality Show Is Here, and I Have Questions," 30 July 2018 If the rocket carrying the capsule were to suddenly malfunction on the launchpad or after takeoff, the engines would fire, propelling the Starliner and its passengers away to safety. Loren Grush, The Verge, "Failure during engine test could delay Boeing’s new passenger spacecraft," 23 July 2018 In October, a Soyuz rocket malfunctioned when one of its side boosters failed to separate properly and slammed into the rocket. Seattle Times Staff, The Seattle Times, "Spokane astronaut reaches space station aboard Russian craft," 3 Dec. 2018 Early this morning, a Russian Soyuz booster carrying two people to the International Space Station malfunctioned, forcing NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin to abort and make an emergency landing in their space capsule. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "Ballistic Reentry: How Astronauts Survive a Failed Launch," 11 Oct. 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.

See More

First Known Use of malfunction


1941, in the meaning defined above


1892, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about malfunction

Share malfunction

Dictionary Entries near malfunction







malgré lui

Statistics for malfunction

Last Updated

2 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for malfunction

The first known use of malfunction was in 1892

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for malfunction



English Language Learners Definition of malfunction

: to fail to function or work properly


intransitive verb
mal·​func·​tion | \ (ˈ)mal-ˈfəŋ(k)-shən How to pronounce malfunction (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on malfunction

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


to reflect, repel, echo, or resound

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt-painting-a-young-scholar-and-his-tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!