See also: Fail, fàil, fáil, and Fäil



  • enPR: fāl, IPA(key): /feɪl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪl

Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English failen, borrowed from Anglo-Norman faillir, from Vulgar Latin *fallire, alteration of Latin fallere (to deceive, disappoint), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰāl- (to lie, deceive) or Proto-Indo-European *sgʷʰh₂el- (to stumble). Compare Dutch feilen, falen (to fail, miss), German fehlen (to fail, miss, lack), Danish fejle (to fail, err), Swedish fela (to fail, be wanting, do wrong), Icelandic feila (to fail), Spanish fallar (to fail, miss).


fail (third-person singular simple present fails, present participle failing, simple past and past participle failed)

  1. (intransitive) To be unsuccessful.
    Throughout my life, I have always failed.
    • 1577, Raphaell Holinshed, “[The Historie of Englande.]”, in The Firste Volume of the Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande [], volume I, London: [] [Henry Bynneman] for Iohn Harrison, OCLC 55195564, page 249, column 1:
      If they ſhoulde gyue battayle it was to be doubted, leaſt through treaſon amõgſt themſelues, the armie ſhould be betrayed into the enimies hands, the which would not fayle to execute all kinde of crueltie in the ſlaughter of the whole nation.
    • 2013 August 10, “A new prescription”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8848:
      As the world’s drug habit shows, governments are failing in their quest to monitor every London window-box and Andean hillside for banned plants. But even that Sisyphean task looks easy next to the fight against synthetic drugs. No sooner has a drug been blacklisted than chemists adjust their recipe and start churning out a subtly different one.
  2. (transitive) Not to achieve a particular stated goal. (Usage note: The direct object of this word is usually an infinitive.)
    The truck failed to start.
  3. (transitive) To neglect.
    The report fails to take into account all the mitigating factors.
  4. (intransitive) Of a machine, etc.: to cease to operate correctly.
    After running five minutes, the engine failed.
  5. (transitive) To be wanting to, to be insufficient for, to disappoint, to desert.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], OCLC 964384981, 1 Kings 2:4:
      There shall not fail thee a man on the throne.
    • 1843, Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present, book 3, ch. II, Gospel of Mammonism
      A poor Irish Widow […] went forth with her three children, bare of all resource, to solicit help from the Charitable Establishments of that City. At this Charitable Establishment and then at that she was refused; referred from one to the other, helped by none; — till she had exhausted them all; till her strength and heart failed her: she sank down in typhus-fever […]
    • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 2, in The Mirror and the Lamp[1]:
      That the young Mr. Churchills liked—but they did not like him coming round of an evening and drinking weak whisky-and-water while he held forth on railway debentures and corporation loans. Mr. Barrett, however, by fawning and flattery, seemed to be able to make not only Mrs. Churchill but everyone else do what he desired. And if the arts of humbleness failed him, he overcame you by sheer impudence.
  6. (transitive, intransitive) To receive one or more non-passing grades in academic pursuits.
    I failed English last year.
  7. (transitive) To give a student a non-passing grade in an academic endeavour.
    The professor failed me because I did not complete any of the course assignments.
  8. (transitive, obsolete) To miss attaining; to lose.
  9. To be wanting; to fall short; to be or become deficient in any measure or degree up to total absence.
    The crops failed last year.
  10. (archaic) To be affected with want; to come short; to lack; to be deficient or unprovided; used with of.
    • 1757, Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful
      If ever they fail of beauty, this failure is not to be attributed to their size.
  11. (archaic) To fall away; to become diminished; to decline; to decay; to sink.
  12. (archaic) To deteriorate in respect to vigour, activity, resources, etc.; to become weaker.
    A sick man fails.
  13. (obsolete) To perish; to die; used of a person.
  14. (obsolete) To err in judgment; to be mistaken.
  15. To become unable to meet one's engagements; especially, to be unable to pay one's debts or discharge one's business obligation; to become bankrupt or insolvent.
Usage notesEdit
Alternative formsEdit
Derived termsEdit
Related termsEdit
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


fail (countable and uncountable, plural fails)

  1. (uncountable, slang) Poor quality; substandard workmanship.
    The project was full of fail.
  2. (slang) A failure (condition of being unsuccessful)
  3. (slang, US) A failure (something incapable of success)
  4. A failure, especially of a financial transaction (a termination of an action).
  5. A failing grade in an academic examination.
Derived termsEdit


fail (comparative more fail, superlative most fail)

  1. (slang, US) Unsuccessful; inadequate; unacceptable in some way.

Etymology 2Edit

Unknown. Compare Scottish Gaelic fàl (hedge), Scots faill (turf). Attested from the 16th century.[1]

Alternative formsEdit


fail (plural fails)

  1. A piece of turf cut from grassland.
Derived termsEdit


  1. ^ fail, n.1, in Oxford English Dictionary, 1884–1928, and First Supplement, 1933.




From English file, from Old French fil (thread), from Latin filum (thread). Compare to Malay fail.


  • IPA(key): [ˈfaɪl]
  • Hyphenation: fa‧il



  1. file,
    1. a collection of papers collated and archived together.
      Synonyms: berkas, dokumen
    2. (computing) an aggregation of data on a storage device, identified by a name.
  2. file rack

Further readingEdit



From Old Irish foil, from Proto-Celtic *wali-, from Proto-Indo-European *wel-. Cognates include Ancient Greek ἕλιξ (hélix, something twisted).



fail f (genitive singular faile, nominative plural faileanna)

  1. ring
  2. bracelet
  3. wreath
  4. sty



Irish mutation
Radical Lenition Eclipsis
fail fhail bhfail
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.



From English file.


fail (plural fail-fail)

  1. file (collection of papers)
  2. information or a document about someone, something etc.
  3. (computing) file (aggregation of data on a storage device)

Derived termsEdit


fail (used in the form memfailkan)

  1. file (commit papers)
  2. file (to archive)
  3. (computing) file (store computer data)
  4. (with untuk) file (make a formal request)

Old IrishEdit



  1. Alternative form of fil