Cambridge Dictionaries online Cambridge Dictionaries online

The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English

English definition of “fail”

fail

verb     /feɪl/
NOT SUCCEED [I] B2 to not be successful: Dad's business failed after just three years. She keeps failing in her attempt to lose weight.Failing and doing badlyUnsuccessful (people and things)
fail to do sth B2 to not do what is necessary or expected: John failed to turn up for football practice yesterday.Failing and doing badly
EXAM [I, T] A2 to not pass a test or an exam, or to decide that someone has not passed: I'm worried about failing my driving test.Failing and doing badlyExams, tests and exercises
STOP WORKING [I] B2 to stop working normally, or to become weaker: Two of the plane's engines had failed. My eyesight's beginning to fail.Failing and doing badlyBecoming and making less strong
NOT HELPING [T] to stop being helpful or useful to someone when they need you: The government is failing the poor and unemployed.Failing and doing badly
I fail to see/understand used to show that you do not accept something: [+ question word] I fail to see why you cannot work on a Sunday.Refusing and rejecting
(Definition of fail verb from the Cambridge Learner's Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

More Learner's Dictionary definitions for “fail”

Definitions of “fail” in other dictionaries

Word of the Day

closeness

the quality of knowing someone very well, liking them a lot, and wanting to spend a lot of time together

Word of the Day

Blog

Read our blog about how the English language behaves.

Learn More

New Words

Find words and meanings that have just started to be used in English, and let us know what you think of them.

Learn More