Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

fail - definition and synonyms

 
 
 
Close

What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

Close

Thesaurus

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

more
verb fail pronunciation in American English /feɪl/
Word Forms
Close
present tense
I/you/we/theyfail
he/she/itfails
present participlefailing
past tensefailed
past participlefailed
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  1. 1
    [intransitive] to be unsuccessful when you try to do something
    Most people who try to lose weight fail dismally.
    fail to do something: They have failed to come up with any practical solutions.
    fail in: He failed in his attempt to get compensation.
    1. a.
      used about actions or plans
      Attempts to revive him failed.
      It looks as if the negotiations are going to fail.
  2. 2
    [intransitive] to not do something that people expect you to do
    fail to do something: She failed to give any explanation for her actions.
    He failed to come home at the usual time.
    fail in your duty/obligation: The government is failing in its duty to protect people.
    1. a.
      [transitive] if someone fails you, they do not do what they promised or what you trusted them to do
      He felt he had failed his teammates.
      The political system has failed us.
  3. 3
    [intransitive/transitive] to be unsuccessful in achieving a satisfactory level or standard
    The new airplane failed a safety test.
    She failed all her tests.
    fail on: I failed on the written part of my driver’s test.
    1. a.
      [transitive] to decide that someone or something has not achieved a satisfactory score or standard
      Teachers failed nearly 30% of the students.
  4. 5
    [transitive] mainly literary if a quality or ability fails you, you suddenly lose it
    At the last minute, her courage failed her.

ruburb

an area in the countryside where there are both housing developments and farms, and many people travel to work in nearby cities

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary

troll factory

a company that pays its employees to write online comments in favour or against somebody or something posing as ordinary Internet users

add a word

Blog

A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog