fail Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary Cambridge dictionaries logo
Cambridge Dictionaries online Cambridge Dictionaries online

The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English

Meaning of “fail” in the English Dictionary

"fail" in British English

See all translations

failverb

uk   /feɪl/ 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 finding work as a model, but failed. This method of growing tomatoes never fails. He failed in his attempt to break the record. [+ to infinitive] She failed to reach the Wimbledon Final this year. The reluctance of either side to compromise means that the talks are doomed to (= will certainly) fail.
if all else fails
if none of our plans succeed: If all else fails, we can always stay in and watch TV.

expend iconexpend iconMore examples

  • 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 in chemistry.US I passed history but failed chemistry. A lot of people fail their driving test the first time. She was sure she was going to fail. The examiners failed him because he hadn't answered enough questions.

expend iconexpend iconMore examples

  • fail verb (NOT DO)

B2 [I] to not do something that you should do: [+ to infinitive] He failed to arrive 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 risks involved 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.

expend iconexpend iconMore examples

  • fail verb (STOP)

B2 [I] to become weaker or stop working completely: If my eyesight fails, I'll have to stop doing this job. The brakes failed and the car crashed into a tree. After talking non-stop for two hours, her voice started to fail. The old man was failing fast (= he was dying).
[I] If a business fails, it is unable to continue because of money problems.
  • 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   /feɪl/ us   /feɪl/
(Definition of fail from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"fail" in American English

See all translations

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 (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] 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

See all translations

failverb

uk   /feɪl/ us  
[I] to not succeeed in something you are trying to do: fail to do sth They failed to reach an agreement with the board members. 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 small businesses 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 advanced exams fail. The company repeatedly failed inspections by Health and Safety officials.
[I] if a machine or system fails, it stops working: 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)
What is the pronunciation of fail?
Add Cambridge dictionaries to your browser to your website

“fail” in Business English

Avoiding common errors with the word enough.
Avoiding common errors with the word enough.
by ,
May 25, 2016
by Liz Walter Enough is a very common word, but it is easy to make mistakes with it. You need to be careful about its position in a sentence, and the prepositions or verb patterns that come after it. I’ll start with the position of enough in the sentence. When we use it with a noun,

Read More 

Word of the Day

ray

a narrow beam of light, heat, etc. travelling in a straight line from its place of origin

Word of the Day

convo noun
convo noun
May 23, 2016
informal a conversation The convo around concussions mostly focuses on guys who play football, but Chastain thinks that this whole thing could be a headache for women too.

Read More