Etymology
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fail-safe (adj.)

also failsafe, fail safe "safe against failure," 1945, originally in reference to aircraft construction, from fail (v.) + safe (adj.). The novel about a nuclear attack caused by mechanical error is from 1962.

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Definitions of fail-safe
1
fail-safe (adj.)
guaranteed not to fail;
a fail-safe recipe for cheese souffle
fail-safe (adj.)
eliminating danger by compensating automatically for a failure or malfunction;
a fail-safe device in a nuclear weapon to deactivate it automatically in the event of accident
2
fail-safe (n.)
a mechanism capable of returning to a safe state in case there is a failure or malfunction;
From wordnet.princeton.edu