from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To prove deficient or lacking; perform ineffectively or inadequately.
  • intransitive verb To be unsuccessful.
  • intransitive verb To be unsuccessful in being acted upon.
  • intransitive verb To receive an academic grade below the acceptable minimum.
  • intransitive verb To prove insufficient in quantity or duration; give out.
  • intransitive verb To decline, as in strength or effectiveness.
  • intransitive verb To cease functioning properly.
  • intransitive verb To give way or be made otherwise useless as a result of excessive strain.
  • intransitive verb To become bankrupt or insolvent.
  • intransitive verb To disappoint or prove undependable to.
  • intransitive verb To abandon; forsake.
  • intransitive verb To omit to perform (an expected duty, for example).
  • intransitive verb To leave undone; neglect.
  • intransitive verb To receive an academic grade below the acceptable minimum in (a course, for example).
  • intransitive verb To give such a grade of failure to (a student).
  • intransitive verb To be detected by (a drug test) as having used a banned substance.
  • noun A failing grade.
  • idiom (without fail) With no chance of failure.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A piece cut off from the rest of the sward; a turf; a sod.
  • noun A woman's upper garment. Halliwell. See faille.
  • To be or become deficient or lacking, as something expected or desired; fall short, cease, disappear, or be wanting, either wholly or partially; be insufficient or absent: as, the stream fails in summer; our supplies failed.
  • To decline; sink; grow faint; become weaker.
  • To come short or be wanting in action, detail, or result; disappoint or prove lacking in what is attempted, expected, desired, or approved: often followed by an infinitive or by of or in: as, he failed to come; the experiment failed of success; he fails in duty; the portrait fails in expression.
  • To become unable to meet one's engagements, especially one's debts or business obligations; become insolvent or bankrupt.
  • =Syn, 1. To fall short, come short, give out.
  • To wane, fade, weaken.
  • To come to naught, prove abortive.
  • To break, suspend payment.
  • To be wanting to; disappoint; desert; leave in the lurch.
  • To omit; leave unbestowed or unperformed; neglect to keep or observe: as, to fail an appointment.
  • To come short of; miss; lack.
  • To deceive; delude; mislead.
  • noun Lack; absence or cessation.
  • noun Failure; deficiency: now only in the phrase without fail (which see, below).
  • noun A failure, failing, or fault.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Miscarriage; failure; deficiency; fault; -- mostly superseded by failure or failing, except in the phrase without fail.
  • noun obsolete Death; decease.
  • intransitive verb To be wanting; to fall short; to be or become deficient in any measure or degree up to total absence; to cease to be furnished in the usual or expected manner, or to be altogether cut off from supply; to be lacking
  • intransitive verb To be affected with want; to come short; to lack; to be deficient or unprovided; -- used with of.
  • intransitive verb To fall away; to become diminished; to decline; to decay; to sink.
  • intransitive verb To deteriorate in respect to vigor, activity, resources, etc.; to become weaker.
  • intransitive verb obsolete To perish; to die; -- used of a person.
  • intransitive verb To be found wanting with respect to an action or a duty to be performed, a result to be secured, etc.; to miss; not to fulfill expectation.
  • intransitive verb To come short of a result or object aimed at or desired ; to be baffled or frusrated.
  • intransitive verb To err in judgment; to be mistaken.
  • intransitive verb To become unable to meet one's engagements; especially, to be unable to pay one's debts or discharge one's business obligation; to become bankrupt or insolvent.
  • transitive verb To be wanting to ; to be insufficient for; to disappoint; to desert.
  • transitive verb rare To miss of attaining; to lose.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English failen, from Old French faillir, from Vulgar Latin *fallīre, variant of Latin fallere, to deceive.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English, from Old French faillir, from Latin fallere ("to deceive, disappoint").


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  • Now popularly combined with epic.

    November 26, 2007

  • Slate: 'What's with all the failing lately? Why fail instead of failure? Why FAIL instead of fail? And why, for that matter, does it have to be epic?

    'It's nearly impossible to pinpoint the first reference, given how common the verb fail is, but online commenters suggest it started with a 1998 Neo Geo arcade game called Blazing Star. (References to the fail meme go as far back as 2003.) Of all the game's obvious draws—among them fast-paced action, disco music, and anime-style cut scenes—its staying power comes from its wonderfully terrible Japanese-to-English translations. If you beat a level, the screen flashes with the words: "You beat it! Your skill is great!" If you lose, you are mocked: "You fail it! Your skill is not enough! See you next time! Bye bye!"'

    October 22, 2008

  • Dog.

    June 6, 2009

  • Epic.

    June 6, 2009

  • Ha!

    June 7, 2009

  • HA HA ha ha hahhhhh!!! I love that. :) There's really no other word for it than "fail," is there?

    June 8, 2009

  • Epic Cat Fail

    June 8, 2009

  • Here.

    July 27, 2009

  • I detest this word, especially when used as a noun, paired with epic or written in all uppercase letters.

    December 21, 2011