fatal

The adjective fatal describes something that is capable of causing death. Certain cleaning products, for instance, are labeled, “Could be fatal if swallowed.” Here's a helpful suggestion: don't swallow them.

Can you hear the word fate in fatal? In ancient times, people believed that the future was determined by a force called fate, and in the 14th century, the French used the word fatal to describe anything that fate had decreed, including death. By the next century the word had evolved to mean something that specifically causes death. Today the term is used more loosely. If your friend makes a fatal mistake on the tennis court, it doesn't mean that he'll literally die, just that he'll lose the game.

Primary Meanings of fatal

1.
adj
bringing death
2.
adj
controlled or decreed by fate; predetermined
Full Definitions of fatal
1

adj bringing death

Synonyms:
deadly, deathly, mortal
causing or capable of causing death
deadly, lethal
of an instrument of certain death
terminal
causing or ending in or approaching death
Antonyms:
nonfatal
not bringing death
nonlethal
not capable of causing death
show more antonyms...

adj (of events) having extremely unfortunate or dire consequences; bringing ruin

“"such doctrines, if true, would be absolutely fatal to my theory"- Charles Darwin”
“"it is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it"- Douglas MacArthur”
Synonyms:
black, calamitous, disastrous, fateful
unfortunate
not favored by fortune; marked or accompanied by or resulting in ill fortune

adj having momentous consequences; of decisive importance

“the fatal day of the election finally arrived”
Synonyms:
fateful
decisive
determining or having the power to determine an outcome
2

adj controlled or decreed by fate; predetermined

“a fatal series of events”
Synonyms:
fateful
inevitable
incapable of being avoided or prevented

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.