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

Those sensors, one of which is suspected of malfunctioning on the flight that crashed, measure the angle at which a plane’s nose and wings are raised or lowered. Andrew Tangel, WSJ, "FAA Launches Review of Boeing’s Safety Analyses," 13 Nov. 2018 From Georgia to New York to Michigan, Election Day 2018 was mired by complaints about malfunctioning voting machines — causing long lines and, in some cases, voters to leave without casting a ballot. German Lopez, Vox, "Why voting machines malfunctioned on Election Day," 7 Nov. 2018 Honda is recalling about 232,000 2018 Accord vehicles and 2019 Insight hybrid cars in the U.S. for malfunctioning software for the rear camera display. Fox News, "Honda Accord, Insight recalled for software problem," 28 Sep. 2018 That vessel, called the Martha’s Vineyard, has experienced numerous and repeated problems, including on Wednesday when its elevator malfunctioned, briefly trapping seven passengers. Matt Rocheleau,, "Mechanical problems force cancellation of two Steamship Authority ferry trips," 8 June 2018 After evidence of glitches surfaced on three of the jet’s earlier flights, Boeing issued an alert to pilots on how to handle situations where sensors measuring speed and altitude are malfunctioning, feeding faulty data to the cockpit. Barbara Peterson, Condé Nast Traveler, "The FAA, Boeing Issue Alerts for 737 Max 8 Planes After Lion Air Crash," 9 Nov. 2018 Previously: Fans of Post Malone are keeping their eyes on the skies on Tuesday after it was reported that the rapper was aboard a malfunctioning plane being forced to fly in circles to prepare for an emergency landing. Andrea Park, Teen Vogue, "Post Malone Is Reportedly on a Private Jet That's Preparing to Make an Emergency Landing," 21 Aug. 2018 PSA Airlines, an American subsidiary that operates mainly in the eastern U.S., began canceling flights on Thursday as that crew placement system malfunctioned. Alison Sider, WSJ, "American Airlines’ Subsidiary Cancels 2,500 Flights Before Glitch Is Resolved," 19 June 2018 The workers were seeking higher pay and better working conditions after two of them were killed by a malfunctioning garbage truck. Washington Post, "Visiting Memphis 50 years after King’s assassination," 29 Mar. 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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Dictionary Entries near malfunction







malgré lui

Statistics for malfunction

Last Updated

7 Dec 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

Comments on malfunction

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a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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