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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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 That’s because Laars issued a recall for two boilers that can malfunction. Chris Smith, BGR, 24 July 2022 The devices can malfunction and start themselves without any user input. Chris Smith, BGR, 14 June 2022 The Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) module could malfunction and cause an electrical short, which could result in an engine compartment fire. Detroit Free Press, 20 Feb. 2022 At least once a day, some kind of equipment would malfunction or fail entirely, leading to downtime in fulfilling orders. Stephanie Cain, Fortune, 31 May 2022 The brake lights may malfunction by unintentionally flickering due to faulty rear tail lights. USA TODAY, 13 May 2022 And Dollar Tree recalled about a million hot glue guns that can malfunction while in use. Chris Smith, BGR, 9 May 2022 The Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) module could malfunction and cause an electrical short, which could result in an engine compartment fire. Detroit Free Press, 20 Feb. 2022 The hot glue gun can malfunction when users plug it in. Chris Smith, BGR, 18 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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

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The first known use of malfunction was in 1892

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Last Updated

9 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Malfunction.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for malfunction


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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