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

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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

Verb A software problem is causing the system to malfunction.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The initial federal response was faltering, with test kits malfunctioning and the president downplaying the risk. Nick Burns, National Review, "America’s Response to the Coronavirus Proves Federalism Isn’t Dead," 2 Apr. 2020 Boeing’s best-selling Max jet has been grounded since March 13 after the second fatal crash linked to a safety device on the plane malfunctioned and repeatedly tried to drive down the nose. Alan Levin,, "Boeing Hit With Proposed $19.7 Million Fine for 737 Lapses," 8 May 2020 Later in October, PG&E reported that one of its high-voltage Sonoma County power lines malfunctioned right at the time and place that the 2019 Kincade Fire began. J.d. Morris,, "PG&E CEO Bill Johnson to retire in June as bankruptcy approaches its end," 22 Apr. 2020 Note: this is for damaged or malfunctioning hardware, not lost hardware. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "Is AppleCare+ Really Worth It?," 12 Apr. 2020 In the first shooting, a masked attacker held a gun to a witness' head, while another masked man tried to open fire at a police officer but his gun malfunctioned. Jacques Billeaud, azcentral, "Prosecutors: Phoenix man suspected in Iraqi police officer slayings should remain jailed," 8 Apr. 2020 As JP Koning noted on the Moneyness blog, that was during the Y2K bug frenzy, when people were worried that computer systems would malfunction when dates rolled over in the new millennium. John Detrixhe, Quartz, "Americans are hoarding cash as recession fears grow," 7 Apr. 2020 An Apple engineer who died when his Tesla Model X slammed into a concrete barrier had previously complained about the SUV malfunctioning on that same stretch of Silicon Valley freeway., "NTSB releases details in 2 crashes involving Tesla Autopilot," 13 Feb. 2020 No worries about the bleachers being done, or the bathrooms malfunctioning on opening day. Paul Sullivan,, "If the old Wrigley Field dugout walls could talk, the stories they would tell," 15 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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Time Traveler for malfunction

Time Traveler

The first known use of malfunction was in 1892

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Statistics for malfunction

Last Updated

7 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Malfunction.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for malfunction


How to pronounce malfunction (audio)

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

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