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

  • intransitive v. To prove deficient or lacking; perform ineffectively or inadequately: failed to fulfill their promises; failed in their attempt to reach the summit.
  • intransitive v. To be unsuccessful: an experiment that failed.
  • intransitive v. To receive an academic grade below the acceptable minimum.
  • intransitive v. To prove insufficient in quantity or duration; give out: The water supply failed during the drought.
  • intransitive v. To decline, as in strength or effectiveness: The light began to fail.
  • intransitive v. To cease functioning properly: The engine failed.
  • intransitive v. To give way or be made otherwise useless as a result of excessive strain: The rusted girders failed and caused the bridge to collapse.
  • intransitive v. To become bankrupt or insolvent: Their business failed during the last recession.
  • transitive v. To disappoint or prove undependable to: Our sentries failed us.
  • transitive v. To abandon; forsake: His strength failed him.
  • transitive v. To omit to perform (an expected duty, for example): "We must . . . hold . . . those horrors up to the light of justice. Otherwise we would fail our inescapable obligation to the victims of Nazism: to remember” ( Anthony Lewis).
  • transitive v. To leave undone; neglect: failed to wash the dishes.
  • transitive v. To receive an academic grade below the acceptable minimum in (a course, for example): failed algebra twice.
  • transitive v. To give such a grade of failure to (a student): failed me in algebra.
  • n. Failure to deliver securities to a purchaser within a specified time.
  • n. Failure to receive the proceeds of a transaction, as in the sale of stock or securities, by a specified date.
  • idiom without fail With no chance of failure: Be here at noon without fail.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To be unsuccessful.
  • v. Not to achieve a particular stated goal. (Usage note: The direct object of this word is usually an infinitive.)
  • v. To neglect.
  • v. To cease to operate correctly.
  • v. To be wanting to, to be insufficient for, to disappoint, to desert.
  • v. To receive one or more non-passing grades in academic pursuits.
  • v. To give a student a non-passing grade in an academic endeavour.
  • n. A failure (condition of being unsuccessful)
  • n. A failure (something incapable of success)
  • n. A failure, especially of a financial transaction (a termination of an action).
  • n. A failing grade in an academic examination.
  • adj. That is a failure.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Miscarriage; failure; deficiency; fault; -- mostly superseded by failure or failing, except in the phrase without fail.
  • n. Death; decease.
  • intransitive v. 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 v. To be affected with want; to come short; to lack; to be deficient or unprovided; -- used with of.
  • intransitive v. To fall away; to become diminished; to decline; to decay; to sink.
  • intransitive v. To deteriorate in respect to vigor, activity, resources, etc.; to become weaker.
  • intransitive v. To perish; to die; -- used of a person.
  • intransitive v. 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 v. To come short of a result or object aimed at or desired ; to be baffled or frusrated.
  • intransitive v. To err in judgment; to be mistaken.
  • intransitive v. 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 v. To be wanting to ; to be insufficient for; to disappoint; to desert.
  • transitive v. To miss of attaining; to lose.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • 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.
  • n. Lack; absence or cessation.
  • n. Failure; deficiency: now only in the phrase without fail (which see, below).
  • n. A failure, failing, or fault.
  • n. A piece cut off from the rest of the sward; a turf; a sod.
  • n. A woman's upper garment. Halliwell. See faille.

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

  • v. disappoint, prove undependable to; abandon, forsake
  • v. be unsuccessful
  • v. stop operating or functioning
  • v. become bankrupt or insolvent; fail financially and close
  • v. fail to do something; leave something undone
  • v. fall short in what is expected
  • v. prove insufficient
  • v. judge unacceptable
  • v. get worse
  • v. be unable
  • v. fail to get a passing grade


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

    December 21, 2011

  • Here.

    July 27, 2009

  • Epic Cat Fail

    June 8, 2009

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

    June 8, 2009

  • Ha!

    June 7, 2009

  • Epic.

    June 6, 2009

  • Dog.

    June 6, 2009

  • 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

  • Now popularly combined with epic.

    November 26, 2007