synonyms, antonyms, definitions, examples & translations of fail in English

English Online Dictionary. What means fail‎? What does fail mean?



  • enPR: fāl, IPA(key): /feɪl/
  • Rhymes: -eɪl

Etymology 1

From Middle English failen, borrowed from Anglo-Norman faillir, from Vulgar Latin *fallire, alteration of Latin fallere (to deceive, disappoint), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰāl- (to lie, deceive) or Proto-Indo-European *sgʷʰh₂el- (to stumble). Compare Dutch feilen, falen (to fail, miss), German fehlen (to fail, miss, lack), Danish fejle (to fail, err), Swedish fela (to fail, be wanting, do wrong), Icelandic feila (to fail), Spanish fallar (to fail, miss).


fail (third-person singular simple present fails, present participle failing, simple past and past participle failed)

  1. (intransitive) To be unsuccessful.
  2. (transitive) Not to achieve a particular stated goal. (Usage note: The direct object of this word is usually an infinitive.)
  3. (transitive) To neglect.
  4. (intransitive) Of a machine, etc.: to cease to operate correctly.
  5. (transitive) To be wanting to, to be insufficient for, to disappoint, to desert.
    • 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 […]
  6. (transitive, intransitive) To receive one or more non-passing grades in academic pursuits.
  7. (transitive) To give a student a non-passing grade in an academic endeavour.
  8. (transitive, obsolete) To miss attaining; to lose.
  9. To be wanting; to fall short; to be or become deficient in any measure or degree up to total absence.
  10. (archaic) To be affected with want; to come short; to lack; to be deficient or unprovided; used with of.
    • 1757, Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful
      If ever they fail of beauty, this failure is not to be attributed to their size.
  11. (archaic) To fall away; to become diminished; to decline; to decay; to sink.
  12. (archaic) To deteriorate in respect to vigour, activity, resources, etc.; to become weaker.
  13. (obsolete) To perish; to die; used of a person.
  14. (obsolete) To err in judgment; to be mistaken.
  15. 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.
Usage notes
  • This is a catenative verb which takes the to infinitive. See Appendix:English catenative verbs
Alternative forms
  • faile (obsolete)
  • fayle (obsolete)
  • (to be unsuccessful): fall on one's face
  • (to receive non-passing grades in academic pursuits): flunk (US)
  • (to become deficient): bomb, bust, conk, tank
  • (to be unsuccessful): succeed
Derived terms
  • failure
  • fail-safe, fail safe
  • words fail someone
Related terms
  • default
  • fallacy
  • false
  • fault


fail (countable and uncountable, plural fails)

  1. (uncountable, slang) Poor quality; substandard workmanship.
  2. (slang) A failure (condition of being unsuccessful)
  3. (slang, US) A failure (something incapable of success)
  4. A failure, especially of a financial transaction (a termination of an action).
  5. A failing grade in an academic examination.
Derived terms


fail (comparative more fail, superlative most fail)

  1. (slang, US) Unsuccessful; inadequate; unacceptable in some way.

Etymology 2

Unknown. Compare Scottish Gaelic fàl (hedge), Scots faill (turf). Attested from the 16th century.

Alternative forms

  • feal


fail (plural fails)

  1. A piece of turf cut from grassland.
Derived terms
  • fail and divot


  • fail in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.
  • fail in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.
  • fail at OneLook Dictionary Search


  • -afil, alif, fila



From English file, from Old French fil (thread), from Latin filum (thread). Compare to Malay fail.


  • IPA(key): [ˈfaɪl]
  • Hyphenation: fa‧il



  1. file,
    1. a collection of papers collated and archived together.
      Synonyms: berkas, dokumen
    2. (computing) an aggregation of data on a storage device, identified by a name.
  2. file rack

Further reading

  • “fail” in Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (KBBI) Daring, Jakarta: Badan Pengembangan dan Pembinaan Bahasa, Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan Republik Indonesia, 2016.



From Old Irish foil, from Proto-Celtic *wali-, from Proto-Indo-European *wel-. Cognates include Ancient Greek ἕλιξ (hélix, something twisted).


  • IPA(key): /fˠalʲ/


fail f (genitive singular faile, nominative plural faileanna)

  1. ring
  2. bracelet
  3. wreath
  4. sty





From English file.


fail (plural fail-fail)

  1. file (collection of papers)
  2. information or a document about someone, something etc.
  3. (computing) file (aggregation of data on a storage device)

Derived terms

  • pemfailan (the process of filing)
  • berfail-fail (a lot of files)


fail (used in the form memfailkan)

  1. file (commit papers)
  2. file (to archive)
  3. (computing) file (store computer data)
  4. (with untuk) file (make a formal request)

Old Irish



  1. Alternative form of fil

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