Cambridge Dictionaries online Cambridge Dictionaries online

The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English

English definition of “fail”

fail

verb uk   /feɪl/ us  

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 spend the holidays at home.

fail verb (EXAM)

A2 [I or T] to be unsuccessful, or to judge that someone has been unsuccessful in a test or exam: I passed in history but failed in chemistry. A lot of people fail their driving test the first time. The examiners failed him because he hadn't answered enough questions.

fail verb (NOT DO)

B2 [I] to not do something that you should do: [+ to infinitive] He failed to arrive on time. The club had been promised a grant from the council, 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 film. 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.

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 when she most needed him. When I looked down and saw how far I had to jump, my courage failed me (= I felt very frightened).

fail

noun [C] uk   /feɪl/ us  
an unsuccessful result in a course, test, or exam: John got three passes and four fails in his exams.
without fail If you do something without fail, you always do it: I go to the gym every Monday and Wednesday, without fail. used to tell someone that they must do something: Be there at nine o'clock, without fail.

fail

exclamation uk   /feɪl/ US informal us  
used for saying that you disapprove of what someone did: You actually did his homework for him? Fail!
(Definition of fail from the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary & Thesaurus © 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

light at the end of the tunnel

signs of improvement in a situation that has been bad for a long time, or signs that a long and difficult piece of work is almost finished

Word of the Day

The language of work

by Kate Woodford,
October 15, 2014
Most of us talk about our jobs. We tell our family and friends interesting or funny things that have happened in the workplace (=room where we do our job), we describe – and sometimes complain about – our bosses and colleagues and when we meet someone for the first time, we tell

Read More 

spoonula noun

October 13, 2014
a cooking implement that is a combination of a spoon and a spatula Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook on low-medium, scraping and folding the mixture with a silicone spoonula (I love this one).

Read More