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

Investigations are underway into what happened, though it's known that angle-measuring sensors in both planes malfunctioned, alerting anti-stall software to push the noses of the planes down. Angela Charlton,, "Boeing's 'sorry' for 737 Max crashes draws mixed responses from victims' families, airlines," 17 June 2019 The sensors malfunctioned, alerting software to push the noses of the planes down. Time, "Boeing CEO Concedes 'Mistake' Made With 737 Max Jets," 16 June 2019 In most instances, zip line brake equipment malfunctioned or patrons failed to use brakes and people slammed into towers, Narreau said. Kirk Mitchell, The Denver Post, "As popularity of zip lines in Colorado soars, severe crashes raise safety concerns," 11 Aug. 2019 The system malfunctioned in both crashes, sending the planes into unrecoverable nose dives. David Gelles,, "Families of Boeing crash victims seek a full review of the 737 Max," 7 Aug. 2019 Silva also used a Taser on Chong, who was apparently mentally ill and was refusing the officer’s orders to give his real name and birth date, but the stun gun malfunctioned, according to police. Sukey Lewis, The Mercury News, "Los Gatos cop resigns amid outcry over previous firing for SJSU beating," 22 July 2019 In 2017, an ice compressor at the Carolina Hurricanes' PNC Arena malfunctioned, softening the ice so badly that a regular-season game had to be postponed. Julia Stumbaugh, azcentral, "Arizona Coyotes arena technician's cool job: maintaining ice in the desert," 10 July 2019 In one instance, batteries in a headlamp malfunctioned and started a fire, which caused more than $300,000 in damages to a consumer's house. Kate Cox, Ars Technica, "Court rules Amazon can be held responsible for defective third-party goods," 8 July 2019 Of the 60 satellites launched in May, only three malfunctioned and were unable to communicate with the ground, a SpaceX spokesperson said Friday. Jackie Wattles, CNN, "SpaceX says most of its internet satellites are fully functional," 28 June 2019

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

Dictionary Entries near malfunction







malgré lui

Statistics for malfunction

Last Updated

17 Aug 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).


of or relating to the heavens

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


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!