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


A software problem is causing the system to malfunction.

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The reason why the angle-of-attack sensor would have malfunctioned in the Ethiopia crash isn’t yet clear either, said the people. Nizar Manek, The Seattle Times, "Ethiopian Boeing 737 MAX crash investigators seek missing sensor suspected of malfunctioning," 29 Mar. 2019 It was meant to be part of a pair with Longjiang-1, but its sibling malfunctioned and became inoperable. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Chinese Satellite Nabs Stunning Moon-Earth Shot," 6 Feb. 2019 The fuel probe malfunctioned on the ensuing pit stop and the crew only got a few gallons into the No. John Kekis, Fox News, "Chase Elliott gets first NASCAR Sprint Cup win at Watkins Glen," 6 Aug. 2018 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

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

11 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for malfunction

The first known use of malfunction was in 1892

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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

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