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First recorded use in the 14th century from pit +‎ fall in the sense of "pit trap, pit snare", from Old English fealle (trap, snare), from Proto-Germanic *fallą, *fallaz (a fall, trap), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)pōl-. Cognate with German Falle (trap, snare).


  • (UK) enPR: pĭtʹfôl, IPA(key): /ˈpɪtfɔːl/
  • (US) enPR: pĭtʹfäl, IPA(key): /ˈpɪtfɔl/
  • (file)


English Wikipedia has an article on:
English Wikipedia has an article on:

pitfall (plural pitfalls)

  1. (figuratively) A potential, unsuspected, hidden problem, hazard, or danger that is easily encountered but not immediately obvious.
    Synonym: trap
    It's usually a simple task, but you should know the pitfalls before you attempt it yourself.
  2. (literally) A type of trap consisting of a concealed pit in the ground, which the victim is supposed to fall into and not be able to get out from.
    Synonym: trapping pit
  3. (computing) An antipattern.
    Synonyms: antipattern, dark pattern
  4. (mining) Subsidence below ground in a mine, which can cause the ground level above to drop.
    • 1939 June, “Pertinent Paragraphs: Pitfalls”, in Railway Magazine, page 456:
      This pitfall, beginning in February and finishing in May, resulted in a drop of about 3 ft. in the platform level; during this period it was necessary to level the track three times weekly, and impose a service slack of 15 m.p.h. The subsidence appears now to have finished, and normal speed is once again permitted.


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