neg·​li·​gence | \ ˈne-gli-jən(t)s How to pronounce negligence (audio) \

Definition of negligence

1a : the quality or state of being negligent
b : failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances … his naivete and negligence had been the source of his problems.— Michael Leahy
2 : an act or instance of being negligent regretted his past negligences

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Examples of negligence in a Sentence

The company was charged with negligence in the manufacturing of the defective tires. exhibiting his usual negligence, he failed to set the emergency brake, and the car rolled down the steep hill and crashed into the telephone pole
Recent Examples on the Web After the grand jury declined to return an indictment, the family filed a lawsuit against the county and four Sheriff’s Office employees, claiming damages for wrongful death and negligence. James Dobbins, New York Times, "Arrest Leads to Tragedy in the Rio Grande Valley," 24 Oct. 2020 It was caused by the federal government’s negligence. Jimmy Vielkind, WSJ, "New York Faces $59 Billion Revenue Shortfall," 20 Oct. 2020 Fieger suggested the error was caused by negligence. Miriam Marini, Detroit Free Press, "Timesha Beauchamp, who was wrongly pronounced dead by medics in August, dies," 19 Oct. 2020 This is egregious medical negligence that is sure to harm countless women all over the world. Elyssa Koren, National Review, "The United Nations Continues Its Abortion Advocacy," 12 Oct. 2020 The management of the go-karting track has been arrested under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code, on suspicion of causing death by negligence. Manveena Suri And Amy Woodyatt, CNN, "A young Indian woman died when her hair became trapped in a go-kart wheel," 9 Oct. 2020 Morgan Hill, a spokeswoman for the Jacobs campaign, said the issue of Gómez’ tax returns showed negligence. Andrew Dyer, San Diego Union-Tribune, "City Council President Georgette Gómez failed to report more than $100,000 in income on taxes, records show," 8 Oct. 2020 In Oregon, plaintiffs may need to meet a higher bar, such as negligence on the part of the utilities. oregonlive, "PacifiCorp could face substantial liability if downed power lines caused Oregon wildfires," 4 Oct. 2020 This patchwork of restrictions, half measures, budget shortages, and outright negligence—and the fact that every school district, college, municipality, and state is taking a different approach—could potentially lead to chaos, Hanage said. Carolyn Kormann, The New Yorker, "What Will Cold-and-Flu Season Mean for the Coronavirus Pandemic?," 1 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'negligence.' 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 negligence

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for negligence

Middle English necligence, neglicence, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin neglegentia, neclegentia, from neglegent-, neglegens, necligens negligent + -ia -ia entry 1

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Time Traveler for negligence

Time Traveler

The first known use of negligence was in the 14th century

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Statistics for negligence

Last Updated

17 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Negligence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2020.

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More Definitions for negligence


How to pronounce negligence (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of negligence

formal : failure to take the care that a responsible person usually takes : lack of normal care or attention


neg·​li·​gence | \ ˈne-glə-jəns How to pronounce negligence (audio) \

Kids Definition of negligence

: failure to take proper or normal care of something or someone


neg·​li·​gence | \ ˈne-gli-jəns How to pronounce negligence (audio) \

Legal Definition of negligence

: failure to exercise the degree of care expected of a person of ordinary prudence in like circumstances in protecting others from a foreseeable and unreasonable risk of harm in a particular situation also : conduct that reflects this failure

called also ordinary negligence, simple negligence

— compare abuse sense 2, due care, intent

Note: Negligence may render one civilly and sometimes criminally liable for resulting injuries.

collateral negligence
: negligence on the part of an independent contractor that is not connected with a manner of working or risk ordinarily associated with particular work and for which the employer of the contractor is not liable
comparative negligence \ kəm-​ˈpar-​ə-​tiv-​ \
1a : negligence of one among multiple parties involved in an injury that is measured (as in percentages) according to the degree of its contribution to the injury the comparative negligence of the plaintiff
b : a doctrine, rule, or method of apportioning liability and damages in tort law: negligence and damages are determined by reference to the proportionate fault of the plaintiff and defendant with the negligence of the plaintiff not constituting an absolute bar to recovery from the defendant — compare contributory negligence in this entry

Note: The great majority of states have replaced the doctrine of contributory negligence with that of comparative negligence.

2 : an affirmative defense alleging comparative negligence by the plaintiff
contributory negligence
1 : negligence on the part of a plaintiff that contributed to the injury at issue
2 : a now largely abolished doctrine in tort law: negligence on the part of a plaintiff that contributed to the injury at issue will bar recovery from the defendant also : an affirmative defense based on this doctrine
criminal negligence
: a gross deviation from the standard of care expected of a reasonable person that is manifest in a failure to protect others from a risk (as of death) deriving from one's conduct and that renders one criminally liable

called also culpable negligence

— compare gross negligence in this entry
gross negligence
: negligence that is marked by conduct that presents an unreasonably high degree of risk to others and by a failure to exercise even the slightest care in protecting them from it and that is sometimes associated with conscious and willful indifference to their rights — see also recklessness — compare criminal negligence in this entry
negligence per se \ -​ˌpər-​ˈsā, -​ˈsē \
: negligence that consists of a violation of a statute especially designed to protect the public safety

Note: Recovery may be had on a theory of negligence per se when the harm resulting from the violation is the type that the statute is designed to prevent, the plaintiff is a member of the class of persons sought to be protected by the statute, and the violation is the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury.

ordinary negligence
passive negligence
: failure to do something (as to discover a dangerous condition on one's property) that is not a breach of an affirmative duty and that in combination with another's act is a cause of injury
simple negligence
slight negligence
: failure to exercise the great degree of care typical of an extraordinarily prudent person

Note: The category of slight negligence is used much less frequently than ordinary negligence and gross negligence, the other members of a three-level classification that was formerly prevalent.

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