Cambridge Dictionaries online Cambridge Dictionaries online

The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English

English definition of “fail”

See all translations

fail

verb  /feɪl/ us  

fail verb (NOT SUCCEED)

[I] to not be able to do what you are trying to achieve or are expected to do: [+ to infinitive] She applied to Harvard University but failed to get accepted. [I] If you fail to see/understand what something is, you do not agree with someone’s description of a situation: [+ to infinitive] I fail to see what the problem is (= I don’t think there is a problem).

fail verb (NOT PASS)

[I/T] to be unsuccessful, or to judge that someone has been unsuccessful in a test or examination: [I/T] A lot of people fail (their driving test) the first time. [T] She said she would fail any student who misses two exams.

fail verb (NOT DO)

[I/T] to not do something that should be done: [+ to infinitive] He promised to help, but failed to send a check. [+ to infinitive] She never fails to meet a deadline. [I/T] To fail is also to not help someone when expected to: [T] He failed her when she most needed him.

fail verb (STOP)

[I] to become weaker or stop working completely: The bus driver said the brakes failed. [I] If a business fails, it is unable to continue because of money problems.
failing
adjective [not gradable]  /ˈfeɪ·lɪŋ/ us  
He is in failing health and seldom goes outside any more.
(Definition of fail from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
What is the pronunciation of fail?
Add Cambridge dictionaries to your browser to your website

Definitions of “fail” in other dictionaries

Word of the Day

exercise

physical activity that you do to make your body strong and healthy

Word of the Day

Byronic, Orwellian and Darwinian: adjectives from names.

by Liz Walter,
April 15, 2015
Becoming an adjective is a strange kind of memorial, but it is often a sign of a person having had real influence on the world. Science is full of examples, from Hippocrates, the Greek medic born around 460 BC, who gave his name to the Hippocratic Oath still used by doctors today,

Read More 

bio-inspiration noun

April 13, 2015
the adoption of patterns and structures found in nature for the purposes of engineering, manufacturing, science, etc. The MIT researchers actually aren’t the only robotics team to turn to cheetahs for bio-inspiration.

Read More