AskDefine | Define fail

Dictionary Definition

fail

Verb

1 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" [syn: neglect]
2 be unsuccessful; "Where do today's public schools fail?"; "The attempt to rescue the hostages failed miserably" [syn: go wrong, miscarry] [ant: succeed]
3 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" [syn: betray]
4 stop operating or functioning; "The engine finally went"; "The car died on the road"; "The bus we travelled in broke down on the way to town"; "The coffee maker broke"; "The engine failed on the way to town"; "her eyesight went after the accident" [syn: go bad, give way, die, give out, conk out, go, break, break down]
5 be unable; "I fail to understand your motives" [ant: pull off]
6 judge unacceptable; "The teacher failed six students" [ant: pass]
7 fail to get a passing grade; "She studied hard but failed nevertheless"; "Did I fail the test?" [syn: flunk, bomb, flush it] [ant: pass]
8 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"
9 become bankrupt or insolvent; fail financially and close; "The toy company went bankrupt after the competition hired cheap Mexican labor"; "A number of banks failed that year"
10 prove insufficient; "The water supply for the town failed after a long drought" [syn: run out, give out]
11 get worse; "Her health is declining"

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Pronunciation

Verb

  1. : To not achieve a particular goal. (Usage note: The direct object of this word is usually an infinitive. The engine failed to start.)
  2. : To be negligent in one's duty. (The report fails to take into account all the mitigating factors.)
  3. : To be unsuccessful in academic pursuits. (I failed in English last year.)
  4. , of a machine, etc.: To cease to operate correctly. (After running five minutes, the engine failed.)
  5. : To give a student a non-passing grade, thereby causing the student to fail (3) a class or other academic endeavor.
  6. : Amgine.

Usage notes

Translations

Not achieve a goal
  • Spanish: negar
negligent
unsuccessful
  • Spanish: fracasar, zozobrar
cease to operate
  • Spanish: pararse
cause to fail

Noun

  1. a failure, especially of a financial transaction
  2. a failing grade in an academic examination

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Failure (fail, phail or flop) in general refers to the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective. It may be viewed as the opposite of success. Product failure ranges from failure to sell the product to fracture of the product, in the worst cases leading to personal injury, the province of forensic engineering.

Criteria for failure

The criteria for failure are heavily dependent on context of use, and may be relative to a particular observer or belief system. A situation considered to be a failure by one might be considered a success by another, particularly in cases of direct competition or a zero-sum game. As well, the degree of success or failure in a situation may be differently viewed by distinct observers or participants, such that a situation that one considers to be a failure, another might consider to be a success, a qualified success or a neutral situation.
It may also be difficult or impossible to ascertain whether a situation meets criteria for failure or success due to ambiguous or ill-defined definition of those criteria. Finding useful and effective criteria, or heuristics, to judge the success or failure of a situation may itself be a significant task.

Types of failure

Failure can be differentially perceived from the viewpoints of the evaluators. A person who is only interested in the final outcome of an activity would consider it to be an Outcome Failure if the core issue has not been resolved or a core need is not met. A failure can also be a process failure whereby although the activity is completed successfully, a person may still feel dissatisfied if the underlying process is perceived to be below expected standard or benchmark.
  1. Failure to anticipate
  2. Failure to perceive

Commercial failures

A commercial failure is a product that does not reach expectations of success, failing to come even close. A major flop goes one step further and is recognized for its complete lack of success.
Most of the items listed below had high expectations, significant financial investments, and/or widespread publicity, but fell far short of success. Due to the subjective nature of "success" and "meeting expectations", there can be disagreement about what constitutes a "major flop."

Fail internet meme

"Fail" is the name of a popular internet meme where users superimpose the word "fail" onto embarrassing or compromising photos. The G4 television channel has a web feature called "Epic Fail" that denotes major gaffs in popular culture - a mainstream play on the meme. Fail Dogs, an animal version, made the front page of Digg in February, 2008.

References

  • Charles Perrow, Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies, New Tork: Basic Books, 1983. Paperback reprint, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-691-00412-9
  • Sandage, Scott A. Born Losers: A History of Failure in America. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-674-01510-X, ISBN 0-674-02107-X
fail in German: Betriebsstörung
fail in Hebrew: כישלון
fail in Italian: Guasto
fail in Japanese: 故障
fail in Portuguese: Fracasso

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abandon, abort, age, bankrupt, be a gas, be a hit, be caught napping, be found wanting, be inferior, be insufficient, be neglectful, be negligent, be ruined, be unfaithful, be unsuccessful, become insolvent, bill, bomb, break, break faith, bust, cave in, cheat the undertaker, close down, close up, collapse, come apart, come short, come to grief, come unstuck, conk out, crash, crumble, decay, decline, decrease, default, deplete, desert, deteriorate, die, diminish, disappear, disappoint, disintegrate, disregard, dodder, drain, dramatize, droop, drop, dwindle, ebb, exhaust, fade, fail of, fail of success, faint, fall, fall away, fall flat, fall off, fall short, fall shy, fall through, falter, feature, fizzle out, flag, flop, flunk, flunk out, fold, fold up, follow, forsake, founder, get along, get on, give out, give way, gloss over, go back on, go bankrupt, go broke, go down, go downhill, go into receivership, go off, go out, go soft, go to pieces, go to pot, go to ruin, go under, go up, go wrong, grow old, gutter, have nothing on, headline, hit a slump, hit rock bottom, hit the skids, ignore, impoverish, jade, kick the beam, labor in vain, lack, lag, languish, lapse, leave undone, lessen, let down, let go, let ride, let slide, let slip, lose, lose ground, lose sight of, lose strength, lose track of, make a hit, melodramatize, miscarry, misfire, miss, mount, neglect, nod, not answer, not approach, not care for, not come near, not come off, not compare, not get involved, not hack it, not heed, not make it, not make out, not measure up, not pass, not qualify, not stretch, not suffice, not think, not work, open, open a show, overlook, pass over, pass the buck, peak, peg out, peter out, pine, play second fiddle, poop out, premiere, present, preview, produce, put on, rank under, reach the depths, run aground, run down, run out, run short, scenarize, serve, set the stage, shake, shift the blame, shift the responsibility, short, shrink, shrivel, shut down, sink, sleep, slide, slight, slip, slump, spin, stage, star, stop short, subserve, subside, succeed, take for granted, theatricalize, totter, touch bottom, try out, turn gray, turn white, wane, want, wash out, waste, waste away, weaken, wear away, wear thin, wilt, wither, wither away, wizen, worsen, wrinkle, yield
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