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”).
pitfall (plural pitfalls)
- (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.
- (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
- (computing) An antipattern.
- (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.