fail

The verb fail describes something that stops working, like brakes in a car that fail, or is found to be unacceptable, like restaurants that fail their inspection for cleanliness.

The verb fail comes from the Old French word faillir, meaning “be lacking,” “miss,” or “not succeed.” You can fail an exam, which means you didn't get at least a minimum number of points to pass. You can fail to live up to your potential, meaning you aren't able to meet expectations. When businesses fail, it means financial problems force them to close.

Primary Meanings of fail

1.
v
be unable
2.
v
fall short in what is expected
3.
v
stop operating or functioning
4.
v
disappoint, prove undependable to; abandon, forsake
5.
v
get worse
Full Definitions of fail
1

v be unable

“I fail to understand your motives”
Antonyms:
bring off, carry off, manage, negociate, pull off
be successful; achieve a goal

v fail to do something; leave something undone

“She failed to notice that her child was no longer in his crib”
“The secretary failed to call the customer and the company lost the account”
Synonyms:
neglect
Types:
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lose track
fail to keep informed or aware
strike out
put out or be put out by a strikeout
default, default on
fail to pay up
choke
fail to perform adequately due to tension or agitation
muff
fail to catch, as of a ball
miss
fail to attend an event or activity
fan
strike out (a batter), (of a pitcher)
whiff
strike out by swinging and missing the pitch charged as the third
cut, skip
intentionally fail to attend
2

v fall short in what is expected

“She failed in her obligations as a good daughter-in-law”
“We must not fail his obligation to the victims of the Holocaust”
Synonyms:
bomb, flunk, flush it
fail to get a passing grade

v judge unacceptable

“The teacher failed six students”
Synonyms:
bomb, flunk, flush it
fail to get a passing grade
Antonyms:
pass
accept or judge as acceptable
Type of:
evaluate, judge, pass judgment
form a critical opinion of

v fail to get a passing grade

“She studied hard but failed nevertheless”
“Did I fail the test?”
Synonyms:
bomb, flunk, flush it
Antonyms:
make it, pass
go successfully through a test or a selection process
3

v stop operating or functioning

“The engine failed on the way to town”
Synonyms:
break, break down, conk out, die, give out, give way, go, go bad
break
render inoperable or ineffective
buy the farm, cash in one's chips, choke, conk, croak, decease, die, drop dead, exit, expire, give-up the ghost, go, kick the bucket, pass, pass away, perish, pop off, snuff it
pass from physical life and lose all bodily attributes and functions necessary to sustain life
Types:
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crash, go down
stop operating
blow, blow out, burn out
melt, break, or become otherwise unusable
misfire
fail to fire or detonate
malfunction, misfunction
fail to function or function improperly
jam
get stuck and immobilized
Type of:
change
undergo a change; become different in essence; losing one's or its original nature

v be unsuccessful

“Where do today's public schools fail?”
“The attempt to rescue the hostages failed miserably”
Synonyms:
go wrong, miscarry
Antonyms:
bring home the bacon, come through, deliver the goods, succeed, win
attain success or reach a desired goal
Types:
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take it on the chin
undergo failure or defeat
miss
fail to reach or get to
overreach
fail by aiming too high or trying too hard
ball up, blow, bobble, bodge, bollix, bollix up, botch, botch up, bumble, bungle, flub, fluff, foul up, fumble, louse up, mess up, mishandle, muck up, muff, screw up, spoil
make a mess of, destroy or ruin
strike out
be unsuccessful in an endeavor
fall
suffer defeat, failure, or ruin
shipwreck
suffer failure, as in some enterprise
fall flat, fall through, flop, founder
fail utterly; collapse

v prove insufficient

“The water supply for the town failed after a long drought”
Synonyms:
give out, run out

v become bankrupt or insolvent; fail financially and close

“A number of banks failed that year”
4

v disappoint, prove undependable to; abandon, forsake

“His sense of smell failed him this time”
“His strength finally failed him”
“His children failed him in the crisis”
Synonyms:
betray
Type of:
disappoint, let down
fail to meet the hopes or expectations of
5

v get worse

Type of:
decline, worsen
grow worse

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