fail Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary Cambridge dictionaries logo

Meaning of “fail” in the English Dictionary

"fail" in British English

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failverb

uk   us   /feɪl/
  • fail verb (NOT SUCCEED)

B2 [I] to not ​succeed in what you are ​trying to ​achieve or are ​expected to do: She ​moved to London in the ​hope of ​findingwork as a ​model, but failed. This ​method of ​growingtomatoes never fails. He failed in his ​attempt to ​break the ​record. [+ to infinitive] She failed toreach the Wimbledon Final this ​year. The ​reluctance of either ​side to ​compromisemeans that the ​talks are doomed to (= will ​certainly) fail.if all else fails if none of ​ourplanssucceed: If all ​else fails, we can always ​stay in and ​watch TV.

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  • fail verb (EXAM)

A2 [I or T] to be ​unsuccessful, or to ​judge that someone has been ​unsuccessful, in a ​test or ​exam: UK I ​passed in ​history but failed inchemistry.US I ​passedhistory but failed ​chemistry. A lot of ​people fail ​theirdrivingtest the first ​time. She was ​sure she was going to fail. The ​examiners failed him because he hadn't ​answered enough ​questions.

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  • fail verb (NOT DO)

B2 [I] to not do something that you should do: [+ to infinitive] He failed toarrive on ​time. The ​staff had been ​promised a ​rise, but the ​money failed to (= did not)materialize. You couldn't fail to be (= it is ​impossible that you would not be)affected by the ​movie. I'd be failing in my ​duty if I didn't ​tell you about the ​risksinvolved in the ​project.fail to see/understand C2 used when you do not ​accept something: I fail to ​see why you can't ​work on a ​Saturday.

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  • fail verb (STOP)

B2 [I] to ​becomeweaker or ​stopworkingcompletely: If my ​eyesight fails, I'll have to ​stop doing this ​job. The ​brakes failed and the ​carcrashed into a ​tree. After ​talkingnon-stop for two ​hours, her ​voicestarted to fail. The ​old man was failing fast (= he was ​dying). [I] If a ​business fails, it is ​unable to ​continue because of ​moneyproblems.
  • fail verb (NOT HELP)

[T] to not ​help someone when you are ​expected to do so: He failed her in her ​moment of need. When I ​looked down and ​saw how ​far I had to ​jump, my courage failed me (= I ​felt very ​frightened).

failnoun [C]

uk   us   /feɪl/
(Definition of fail from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"fail" in American English

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failverb

 us   /feɪl/
  • 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 (​theirdrivingtest) 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 ​becomeweaker or ​stopworkingcompletely: The ​busdriver said the ​brakes failed. [I] If a ​business fails, it is ​unable to ​continue because of ​moneyproblems.
failing
adjective [not gradable]  us   /ˈfeɪ·lɪŋ/
He is in failing ​health and ​seldom goes ​outside any more.
(Definition of fail from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"fail" in Business English

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failverb

uk   us   /feɪl/
[I] to not succeeed in something you are ​trying to do: fail to do sth They failed to ​reach an ​agreement with the ​boardmembers. fail in sth Last ​year the ​company failed in its ​bid to ​renew their ​contract. All their ​efforts seem to have failed. Some ​employees will not take ​risks because they're scared of failing.
[I] if a ​business fails, it is unsuccessful and cannot continue to ​operate: Over 3000 ​smallbusinesses failed in the first ​quarter of the ​year. Is it better for the ​economy to ​let unsuccessful ​companies fail or to ​bail them out?
[I or T] to not ​pass an ​exam or ​test, or not ​reach a necessary ​standard: About half of all ​candidates taking the more ​advancedexams fail. The ​company repeatedly failed ​inspections by Health and Safety ​officials.
[I] if a ​machine or ​system fails, it ​stopsworking: If the ​system fails for any reason, the ​emergency back-up will ​kick in.
[I] formal to not do something that you should do: fail to do sth What can be done about ​clients who fail to ​pay their ​debts?
(Definition of fail from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
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“fail” in Business English

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