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

Verb A software problem is causing the system to malfunction.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Until disaster struck so close to home, safety worries around scuba diving focused mostly on dangerous marine life and occasional undersea accidents caused by malfunctioning equipment or human error, local diving experts said. Ethan Baron, The Mercury News, "Dive boat tragedy spreads grief, fear through region’s tightly knit dive community," 8 Sep. 2019 If these sensors malfunctioned, landing would be impossible. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "Why Is It So Damn Hard to Land on the Moon?," 10 Sep. 2019 While the stats website malfunctioned late in the second quarter, the UA offense kept on clicking. Michael Lev, azcentral, "Arizona scores early, often in blowout win over NAU," 7 Sep. 2019 But Vela said his office had received numerous reports of gates malfunctioning. Mitchell Ferman And,, "South Texas resort includes a pool, a golf course, and, maybe, a border wall," 5 Sep. 2019 Following the game, a fire extinguisher malfunctioned by the Braves dugout and its contents penetrated the clubhouse., "Marlins stun Braves with four runs in ninth inning and walk-off sac fly in 10th," 11 Aug. 2019 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

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

Statistics for malfunction

Last Updated

12 Oct 2019

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


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

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).


to engage in dissolute behavior

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • rotelle pasta
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!