- 1 English
- 2 Irish
- 3 Malay
- 4 Old Irish
From Middle English failen, from Anglo-Norman faillir, from Vulgar Latin *fallire, alteration of Latin fallere (“to deceive, disappoint”), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰāl- (“to lie, deceive”). Compare Dutch feilen, falen (“to fail, miss”), German fehlen (“to fail, miss, lack”), Danish feile (“to fail, err”), Swedish fela (“to fail, be wanting, do wrong”), Icelandic feila (“to fail”).
- (intransitive) To be unsuccessful.
2013 August 10, “A new prescription”, The Economist, volume 408, number 8848:
- As the world’s drug habit shows, governments are failing in their quest to monitor every London window-box and Andean hillside for banned plants. But even that Sisyphean task looks easy next to the fight against synthetic drugs. No sooner has a drug been blacklisted than chemists adjust their recipe and start churning out a subtly different one.
- Throughout my life, I have always failed.
- (transitive) Not to achieve a particular stated goal. (Usage note: The direct object of this word is usually an infinitive.)
- The truck failed to start.
- (transitive) To neglect.
- The report fails to take into account all the mitigating factors.
- (intransitive, of a machine, etc.) To cease to operate correctly.
- After running five minutes, the engine failed.
- (transitive) To be wanting to, to be insufficient for, to disappoint, to desert.
- Bible, 1 Kings ii. 4
- There shall not fail thee a man on the throne.
- 1843, Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present, book 3, ch. II, Gospel of Mammonism
- A poor Irish Widow […] went forth with her three children, bare of all resource, to solicit help from the Charitable Establishments of that City. At this Charitable Establishment and then at that she was refused; referred from one to the other, helped by none; — till she had exhausted them all; till her strength and heart failed her: she sank down in typhus-fever […]
1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 2, The Mirror and the Lamp:
- That the young Mr. Churchills liked—but they did not like him coming round of an evening and drinking weak whisky-and-water while he held forth on railway debentures and corporation loans. Mr. Barrett, however, by fawning and flattery, seemed to be able to make not only Mrs. Churchill but everyone else do what he desired. And if the arts of humbleness failed him, he overcame you by sheer impudence.
- Bible, 1 Kings ii. 4
- (intransitive) To receive one or more non-passing grades in academic pursuits.
- I failed in English last year.
- (transitive) To give a student a non-passing grade in an academic endeavour.
- The professor failed me because I did not complete any of the course assignments.
- (transitive, obsolete) To miss attaining; to lose.
- though that seat of earthly bliss be failed
- To be wanting; to fall short; to be or become deficient in any measure or degree up to total absence.
- The crops failed last year.
- Bible, Job xiv. 11
- as the waters fail from the sea
- Till Lionel's issue fails, his should not reign.
- (archaic) To be affected with want; to come short; to lack; to be deficient or unprovided; used with of.
- If ever they fail of beauty, this failure is not be attributed to their size.
- (archaic) To fall away; to become diminished; to decline; to decay; to sink.
- When earnestly they seek / Such proof, conclude they then begin to fail.
- (archaic) To deteriorate in respect to vigour, activity, resources, etc.; to become weaker.
- A sick man fails.
- (obsolete) To perish; to die; used of a person.
- had the king in his last sickness failed
- (obsolete) To err in judgment; to be mistaken.
- Which ofttimes may succeed, so as perhaps / Shall grieve him, if I fail not.
- 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.
- (to be unsuccessful): fall on one's face
- (to be unsuccessful): succeed
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.
fail (plural fails)
- (slang) A failure (condition of being unsuccessful)
- (slang, US) A failure (something incapable of success)
- A failure, especially of a financial transaction (a termination of an action).
- A failing grade in an academic examination.
- (slang, US) That is a failure.
- fail in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
- fail in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911
- fail at OneLook Dictionary Search
Forms with the definite article
|Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.
fail (plural fail-fail)
- file (collection of papers)
- information or a document about someone, something etc.
- (computing) file (aggregation of data on a storage device)
fail (used in the form memfailkan)
- file (commit papers)
- file (to archive)
- (computing) file (store computer data)
- (with untuk) file (make a formal request)
- Alternative form of fil.