to a fault

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to a fault (not comparable)

  1. (idiomatic) To an excessive degree; extremely.
    I am trusting to a fault.

Usage notes[edit]

"To a fault" is ordinarily used to modify an adjective which describes some desirable or otherwise positive characteristic of a person. Sometimes the expression functions as a strong intensifier, meaning "extremely." Often, however, the expression is used to indicate that the person possesses or exhibits that characteristic in a measure which can reasonably be regarded as disproportionate, unwise, over the top, or annoying.


1710 1883 1887 1904 2001
ME « 15th c. 16th c. 17th c. 18th c. 19th c. 20th c. 21st c.
  • 1710, Issac Norris, Friendly Advice to the Inhabitants of Pensilvania, Andrew Bradford (Philadelphia), p. 2,
    He also had that good qualification, of a moderate expectation, almost to a fault.
  • 1883, Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi, ch. 34 "Tough Yarns,"
    These mosquitoes . . . are feeble, insignificant in size, diffident to a fault.
  • 1887, Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, ch. 3,
    Fitz-Roy's character was a singular one, with very many noble features: he was devoted to his duty, generous to a fault, bold, determined, and indomitably energetic.
  • 1904, Rex Ellingwood Beach, "Pardners" in Pardners,
    Madam, I'm as gentle as a jellyfish, and peaceful to a fault.
  • 2001, Aparisim Ghosh, "Subcontinental Drift: Shining Star," Time, 13 Feb.,
    Self-deprecating to a fault, he refuses any praise for his work.


  • "to a fault" in the Unabridged, v1.0.1, Lexico Publishing Group, 2006.
  • "to a fault" in the Wordsmyth Dictionary-Thesaurus © Wordsmyth 2002.
  • Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1989. See "to a fault," under "fault (n.)."
  • Random House Webster's Unabridged Electronic Dictionary, 1987-1996. See "to a fault," under "fault."