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

Workers mobilized after two colleagues were killed by a malfunctioning garbage truck. Adrian Sainz, Washington Post, "Baxter Leach, key member of Memphis’ striking sanitation workers, dies at 79," 29 Aug. 2019 When the owner and another person arrived, the shooter opened fire on the two people, but the gun malfunctioned, Hayes said. Los Angeles Times, "Two Temecula residents face murder charges in fatal shooting of LAPD Officer Juan Diaz," 6 Aug. 2019 Donyea pointed his gun and tried to shoot Conn Rassavong, but his gun malfunctioned and did not fire. Robin Goist,, "Akron brothers sentenced to life in prison without parole for random killings," 29 July 2019 Sarah Henderson had also tried to shoot her husband but the gun malfunctioned, authorities said. Tom Steele, Dallas News, "Texas woman makes deal to avoid death penalty for fatally shooting 2 young daughters," 17 July 2019 After the Lion Air crash, Boeing sent pilots and airlines a checklist of steps to take if MCAS malfunctioned, including disabling the software and hand-cranking a wheel to manually rotate part of the plane’s tail and point the nose up. David Koenig,, "Pilots criticize Boeing for mistakes on its grounded jet," 19 June 2019 And of course, there have been complaints about radio shenanigans—use of multiple frequencies to bypass the cutoff, home teams fiddling with the opponent’s signal, deliberately malfunctioning headsets., "A History of Football in 100 Objects," 28 Aug. 2019 Workers mobilized after two colleagues were killed by a malfunctioning garbage truck. Washington Post, "Key member of Memphis’ striking sanitation workers dies," 27 Aug. 2019 For years, users have complained about sticking and malfunctioning keys. Don Reisinger, Fortune, "Apple Has New MacBooks Planned for the Fall. Here Are 5 Things They Should Have," 24 July 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.

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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

14 Sep 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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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).


to make a temporary encampment

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