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

  • intransitive v. To make a hissing or sputtering sound.
  • intransitive v. Informal To fail or end weakly, especially after a hopeful beginning.
  • n. Informal A failure; a fiasco.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To sputter or hiss.
  • v. To decay or die off to nothing; to burn out; to end less successfully than previously hoped.
  • n. A spluttering or hissing sound.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A failure or abortive effort; a fiasco.
  • intransitive v. To make a hissing sound.
  • intransitive v. To make a ridiculous failure in an undertaking, especially after a good start; to achieve nothing.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To make a hissing sound; hiss or sputter, as a liquid or gas forced out of a narrow aperture, or a liquid discharging gas, or a wet combustible, as wood or gunpowder, burning: usually with special reference to the weakness and sudden diminution or cessation of such sound.
  • Hence To stop abruptly after a more or less brilliant start; come to a sudden and lame conclusion; fail ignominiously; specifically, in school and college slang, to fail in a recitation or an examination: often with out: as, the undertaking promised well, but it soon fizzled out; nearly the whole class fizzled in calculus.
  • To break wind.
  • In school and college slang, to examine (a student) with the result of failure on his part: as, the professor fizzled nearly the whole class.
  • n. Same as fizz, 2.
  • n. A fizzling or fizzing condition; hence, a state of restless agitation; a stew; worry: as, he is in a fizzle about his luggage.
  • n. A breaking wind.
  • n. A failure or an abortive effort; in particular, in school and college slang, a failure in a recitation or an examination.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. end weakly
  • n. a complete failure
  • n. a fricative sound (especially as an expression of disapproval)


Probably from obsolete fise, a breaking wind, from Middle English, of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse fīsa, to break wind.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Attested in English since 1525-35. From earlier fysel ("to fart"). Related to fīsa ("to fart"). Compare with fisa ("to fart (silently)"). See also feist. (Wiktionary)


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  • Outside your cottage we watched a star
    fizzle and set in a mole fur sky.

    - Peter Reading, New Year Letter, from For the Municipality's Elderly, 1974

    June 22, 2008

  • Contronymic in the sense: effervescence vs. decline.

    January 27, 2007